Manitou Springs believes its groundbreaking run to the Class 3A baseball state finals last year has had a lasting effect.
"We set a precedent of where we want to be as a program," Mustangs coach Cory Archuleta said, "and I think it's carried over well."
The Mustangs, this week's Gazette Team to Watch, rode an 8-1 run to their first finals game in program history last spring, a trip that ended in a 5-1 loss to Faith Christian. And while seven players graduated from that team, eight return this year, including six seniors.
The Mustangs appear to have brought back a good bit of their 2016 magic, too.
So far this spring, the Mustangs (5-1, 2-0 3A Tri-Peaks) have hit and pitched well through six games. They've outscored the opposition 53-20.
"Even though we lost that (finals) game I think it was definitely a confidence booster for this season," returning senior Dylan Hickox said. "I mean we still talk about last season because it was so great."
Hickox is hitting .526 with 10 RBIs in the early goings, while fellow senior Davyn Adamscheck has a .611 average with seven RBIs and five stolen bases.
Maybe more exciting, though, has been the work of the Mustangs' revamped pitching rotation.
Brennan Allen, who threw only four innings a year ago, leads the staff with a 2.10 ERA in 20 innings. Sean Whalen has been effective too in his 10 2/3 innings.
Manitou Springs also has the live arm of Adamscheck, who threw 40 innings as the No. 2 pitcher for the Mustangs last season. But Archuleta has been happy to use him sparingly on the mound so far this year - at 7 1/3 innings - to keep his expert glove at shortstop.
"I thought that was going to be our biggest Achilles' heel and our biggest question mark," Archuleta said. "We knew what we had with Davyn. ... But to me, it has been a pleasant surprise to see Brennan and Sean work for us. They've been huge."
The Mustangs won three of their first four games and returned from spring break to sweep Florence in a doubleheader on Monday. A heavy snow storm rocked the area on Tuesday, slowing down their roll, if only momentarily.
Now at 5-1, its best start since going 14-1 to start 2015, Archuleta is insistent that his team isn't looking too far forward and is only worried about "the team in front of us."
The bigger picture, though, has already been set in motion.
"We really set a foundation for our school and just our whole baseball program," Adamscheck said. "I think we want to keep building off that and keep leaving our legacy at the school."