Pikes Peak Christian ballplayers Matchwits on diamond, in trivia

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Photo - From front, Nick Bellew, Gabe Gutierrez and Drake Fortner are pictured at Pikes Peak Christian School on Thursday, March 17, 2016. The three baseball players are also on the school's Matchwits team. Photo by Stacie Scott, The Gazette.
From front, Nick Bellew, Gabe Gutierrez and Drake Fortner are pictured at Pikes Peak Christian School on Thursday, March 17, 2016. The three baseball players are also on the school's Matchwits team. Photo by Stacie Scott, The Gazette.

Fielding a ground ball is a lot like competing in an academia competition, says sophomore Nick Bellew, a trivia guru and baseball utility player at Pikes Peak Christian. 

Whether it's throwing out a runner or rattling off the properties of chlorofluorocarbons, it's important to have a perfected routine, he says.

"You have to have fast reaction speed in either one," Bellew said this week. "In a second you have to be able to go over everything you have to do and do it."

That routine is about the only normalcy inside the Pikes Peak Christian baseball program.

The Eagles, who nearly had the baseball program cut a year ago, will have 11 players on their 2016 roster, just enough to stay afloat for at least one more season. Most of those, however, will have to juggle time on the diamond with at least one other after-school activity.

Just this week, Bellew, fellow sophomore Gabe Gutierrez and senior Drake Fortner balanced their time between baseball and Matchwits, an after-school academic team that competes against other schools across the state answering trivia questions. The Eagles took ninth at the Class 1A Matchwits state tournament in Fort Collins on Tuesday before getting back to the field on Wednesday.

"I think everyone is in a lot of things here," said Gutierrez, who also plays the "Prince" in the school's upcoming theater production of "Cinderella." "I think we're all used to it."

They have to be.

From the baseball team alone: one is also on track and field, three are a part of the school's student council and another handful are a part of the school band.

And therein lies the success and struggles on the diamond.

While a baseball squad full of players with a sole focus might amount to more wins, Pikes Peak Christian coach Curt Bellew calls the Eagles' hands-in-a-lot-of-pots culture one he wouldn't want to change.

"This is a very smart bunch of kids," the coach said. "We have a bunch of teachable kids who are used to being coached. There isn't a lot of big attitudes, so it's all in fun."

A lack of early signups nearly quashed the baseball program last year.

After the school called it off in the fall of 2014, though, enough students showed interest to reinstate the sport by winter. That spring, the Eagles - jokingly coined, "The baseball team that doesn't exist" by their coach - went 1-6.

Now, in 2016, they're younger and even smaller in numbers. The goal is simple.

"Just world domination," Nick said with a grin.