The Creek Mystique is alive and well in 2012. After all, how do you explain what transpired at All City Field during the Class 5A Championship Series?Cherry Creek (Greenwood Village)
claimed its first state baseball title since 1999 with a 6-0 victory against Legend (Parker, Colo.)
on Saturday, continuing a string of unlikely circumstances en route to the Bruins' eighth overall championship.
The late-inning magic that repeatedly has kept Cherry Creek's postseason alive (three walk-off wins) has been well-documented
, but in the biggest game of the season the Bruins rode the pitching performance of junior Derik Beauprez
How likely was that? Well, he hadn't pitched in more than a month - April 24, to be exact. So, of course, Beauprez tossed a one-hitter, struck out nine and outdueled Legend ace Tyler Honahan
, who entered having yielded only one run in 15 postseason innings.
That came after the Bruins (24-3) had ousted defending champion Regis Jesuit (Aurora)
9-6 in an elimination game earlier in the day, for the right to face Legend (19-6). Legend came into the final four as the lone unbeaten team in the double-elimination format, but the Titans were unable to close it out.
After losing to Legend 3-2 in its second game of the tournament, Cherry Creek won four elimination games to give legendary coach Marc Johnson a title in his milestone 40th season.
"I knew I had to pound the zone with the fastball as much as possible and just make sure I was around the zone and make sure they were swinging," said Beauprez, who has committed to Central Florida. ""The most nervous I was was just in that last inning. Even though we were up, I was still just thinking about getting the next out."
Cherry Creek, the state runner-up last season, struck for two runs in the top of the first inning to set the pace. Leadoff hitter Dyllin Mucha
singled, stole a base and advanced to third base on a wild pitch in front of an RBI single by Lane Milligan
. Milligan scored later in the inning on a wild pitch.
Mucha and Milligan - the top two hitters in the order - keyed the offensive attack in the title game by combining for four hits, four runs scored and three RBI. Beauprez also had two hits in the title game after driving in two runs against Regis Jesuit.
'We've had quite the comebacks in three games, and we felt like we could do anything even against one of the best pitchers in the state," Milligan said. "I felt like we were pretty prepared for today (offensively)."
Milligan, the Bruins catcher, also had the best seat in the stadium to watch Beauprez's effort.
"I knew he had it. He had a lot of energy and power built up (because he hadn't pitched in awhile)" Milligan said. "He never backed down. He just kept coming right at them, even when he got behind, and executed pitch after pitch."
The early offensive output by Cherry Creek didn't bode well for Legend. The Titans had struggled to score runs throughout the tournament, managing only eight in their first three state games despite going 3-0. In the final four, Legend totaled only three hits overall and were shut out in 14 innings.
The dominant pitching Legend had relied on during the opening weekend of state didn't materialize Saturday. Honahan wasn't particularly sharp against a deep Bruins lineup, but he also didn't get much help from a defense that committed four errors that accounted for three unearned runs.
Still, Legend was in the big-school title game in only its second season in 5A and fourth overall as a program.
"We knew hitting was going to be kind of tough, especially considering the pitchers we faced," Legend coach Scott Fellers said. "We're disapppointed, but you have to get here to see what it's like so you can build for the future.
"We exceeded all of our expectations and goals for the year. We had a lot of firsts this year. I think we competed with the big guys, but we found out real quick how tough it gets. I couldn't have asked for anything more from these guys, though."