When it comes to Colorado baseball, you won't find many coaches more decorated than Cherry Creek's Marc Johnson.
The 39-year head coach has been named State Coach of the Year on multiple occasions and was named National Coach of the Year in 1997 by the American Baseball Coaches Association. He coached the U.S. National Team in the 2004 Junior Olympics and he's creeping up on 700 wins with 673 to start the season.
He's also won eight state championships, the latest coming last year when his Cherry Creek team fought through the losers bracket to defeat Legend 6-0 in the championship game. With eight returning starters, lots of team speed and possibly the state's best all-around player, the Bruins have a good shot to give Johnson his ninth career title.
See the gallery of the Cherry Creek preseason photo shoot
Cherry Creek opens the season as the odds-on favorite to win the Class 5A championship in Colorado and it also starts the season ranked No. 9 in the MaxPreps Xcellent 25 Preseason Rankings. MaxPreps is counting down the top 10 teams in its preseason rankings, with the rest of the Xcellent 25 list to appear Feb. 19.
"Our strength is our returning pitching and our team speed," said Johnson. "We have eight returning starters from last year's Class 5A state championship team."
Cherry Creek earned its No. 9 ranking thanks to an impressive resume that includes one of the top right-handed pitchers in the country in Derik Beauprez
. The winning pitcher against Legend in the state finals, Beauprez went 3-1 on the season with 30 strikeouts and a 2.62 ERA. He was invited to play in the Under Armour All-American Game and the Perfect Game Classic. At the Perfect Game Classic, Beauprez pitched one scoreless inning, striking out two.
Committed to Miami, Beuprez is just one third of a stellar returning pitching trio that also includes Griffin Jax
and Dimitri Casas
. Jax, who went 4-0 last year with 40 strikeouts, has already committed to the Air Force Academy while Casas, the team's winningest pitcher last year with a 6-0 record, is uncommitted and will likely sign in April.
Beauprez and Jax were also among the team's top hitters last year. Beauprez batted .349 with 25 RBIs, seven doubles and five home runs, while Jax batted .404 with 38 RBIs, seven doubles, four triples and six home runs. Beauprez mans first base when not on the mound while Jax plays at third base.Lane Milligan
and Dyllin Mucha
are also expected to add to the Cherry Creek offensive brigade. Milligan, who has committed to New Mexico, batted .400 with 28 RBIs, six doubles and three home runs last year. He will do the catching duties for the Bruins. Mucha, who batted .467 with 14 RBIs, plays in the outfield.