Apr 182010
 
Authors: Matt L. Stephens

The state of Colorado has just graced us with the best sports weekend of the year to date.

It might not have been a hard task to achieve with no teams in the NCAA Tournament, no New Year’s bowls, the Denver Broncos having a season collapse and both NCAA D-I baseball programs in the state (Air Force and Northern Colorado) being complete jokes, but it might take the Rocky Mountain Showdown in September to top it.

No-hitters and two types of professional playoffs –– what more could we ask for?

The real question is: Where do we begin? From Fort Collins down to Denver, all the way to “The ATL”, we’ll start this blitz off hitting a gap in our own backyard.

She’s going the distance

NCAA softball is more than girls in tight pants getting dirty, though a former roommate would beg to differ. It’s actually an amazing game, and any baseball fan who has ever dismissed it as second-rate should think again.

Try hitting a 65 mph pitch, thrown underhand, from 43 feet away (I bet you can’t).

Any of you baseball guys tried slapping? I’m not talking an open-palmed smack in the face.

While CSU softball hasn’t turned any heads in the past couple of seasons with the exception of team records being broken, these girls are good and picked up two conference wins over the weekend, including handing BYU their first MWC loss of 2010.

But the bigger story was Kelli Eubanks, who recorded a no-hitter against Utah on Thursday en route to an 8-0 victory. In three games pitched this weekend, Eubanks recorded two wins and 12 strikeouts in 12.2 innings (NCAA softballruns seven innings). Props.

Also, congratulations to Jenna Krogh for hitting the first home run of her life.

Can’t hit the heat

It’s a massive stretch, but for the sake of pleasing audiences, Eubanks set the tone for Colorado Rockies history on Saturday.

Ubaldo Jimenez, the pitcher with arguably the best fastball in Major League Baseball, threw his own no-hitter in Atlanta –– the first in Rockies franchise history. It might have been 17 years in the making, but when better than during a season the Rox are finally getting some national love?

There are now only three teams remaining that have never thrown no-hitters: the Tampa Bay Rays (established 1998 as the Tampa Bay Devil Rays), San Diego Padres (1969) and New York Mets (1962).

The next stop for mile-high baseball: win a World Series and drop the number for franchises who have never done so to seven.

Just ‘Melo-out’

While having home court advantage during the first round of the NBA Playoffs is great, there has been somewhat of a fall from grace for the Denver Nuggets, primarily due to better competition in the Western Conference this season.

But it’s time to put records aside, as any team who wants to call themselves “champions” now has to win 16 games.

For the Nuggets, that number is down to 15, thanks to Carmelo Anthony carrying the team on his back.

Fourty-two points, five assists and four boards in 38 minutes of work.

Just like in 2009, Melo is off to a hot start to the Playoffs, topping his postseason career-high of 41 he tallied against Dallas last year. But No. 15 must have a supporting cast if Denver wants any chance to get out of the first round –– without the former Oak Hill star, the Nuggets are down 0-1.

It’s time for the Nuggets to make a stand. Andrei Kirilenko possibly won’t see the floor in the opening round and it looks like Mehmet Okur is out for the remainder of the season after injuring his Achilles Saturday, there’s no reason not to win this series 4-1.

With head coach George Karl watching from home, I think the entire state of Colorado is pulling for a storybook ending to this season.

That just happened

In a finish so crazy ESPN.com gave San Jose credit for the overtime goal, saying the Sharks won 1-0, how about the Avalanche?

Avs goaltender Craig Anderson had 51 saves on the night, compared to only 16 from Evgeni Nobokov.

The biggest difference: Nabokov wasn’t expecting his own player to try and score on him.

Officially, Colorado’s Ryan O’Reilly received credit for the goal, but it was Dan Boyle of the Sharks who actually knocked it into his own net.

But does it really matter? The Avs, an eight seed, are up 2-1 in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Sports Editor Matt L. Stephens can be reached at sports@collegian.com.

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