When he was about 8 years old, a Little League baseball coach told Devan Rupe he might have what it takes to be a pitcher. Rupe took the coach’s words to heart.
Last spring, the junior was starting pitcher for the Hotchkiss Bulldogs. He compiled some impressive stats and became one of the most honored players in the state.
Rupe, also a center fielder, was named to the All-Conference First Team in the Western Slope League, and was named WSL Player of the Year. He also was the only 2A WSL player named to the All-State First Team by the Colorado High School Activities Association.
Last week, Rupe was named to the All-State First Team by The Denver Post.
“He just absolutely loves baseball,” said coach Jason Yantzer. A player’s junior year “is the best year to have a great season,” said Yantzer, who is leaving Hotchkiss to be athletic director and physical education teacher at Cedaredge Middle School. “I hope he has a great (senior) year. He’s playing a lot of summer baseball. I hope he will be a senior leader.”
Rupe, who led the WSL in on-base percentage (.730), said his goal on the mound last season was “to get better command and have fewer walks, and to make more first-pitch strikes.” Rupe’s batting average of .701 was the best in the league and in the state, regardless of class. He was second in the league in RBIs with 41, and in slugging, and was ranked in the top 10 in earned run averages at 1.44.
Rupe also broke five school records, including the 2001 record of 38, in hits during a single season (47), doubles (14, 2008), batting average (2001), on-base percentage (2006), and ERA (2003). “Honestly,” said Rupe, “I care more about the team than about school records.”
Rupe credited his pitching success to Yantzer, who put him on a six-week pitching routine immediately following last fall’s football season. Credit for his batting average went to assistant coach Blake Carlquist, who worked with him one-on-one to improve his swing. Carl-quist will take over as head coach next spring.
Last spring, in their second season in Class 2A, the Bulldogs were 16-4 overall and, at 12-0, claimed the league title and were ranked fifth in state heading into district play, but were eliminated in semifinals by Dolores. That was a huge disappointment, said Rupe, who lists among his senior goals getting “past the hump and winning state.” The Bulldogs have five returning seniors and five returning all-conference players.
This summer Rupe is playing a few games under Carlquist and attended team football camp in early June under new head coach Mike Sirko, but didn’t suit up. “I’m working on building my shoulder back up,” said Rupe, who damaged a tendon in the loss to Dolores. This fall he will return for his second season as the Bulldogs’ starting quarterback. The down time is paying off, said Rupe, whose shoulder “is good now.”
Rupe, who is 5-foot-11, is already looking at the possibility of playing baseball in college, and college coaches are looking at him. “That was my whole goal,” said Rupe. “It’s totally important to have a good junior year. That’s when colleges start watching you.”