Things went according to script in Class 5A districts last weekend. Well, mostly.
While six host seeds advanced, Broomfield
and Dakota Ridge (Littleton)
defied the odds and forced their way into the state tournament by winning two on the road. While Broomfield's win at Regis Jesuit (Aurora) was impressive, it wasn't necessarily shocking because the Eagles (16-5) were the No. 2 seed in the region.
Dakota Ridge is a different story. The Eagles entered the postseason only one game over .500 and as the fourth and final seed in Region 8. Then they knocked off host Mountain Range (Westminster) 5-0 on a shutout by Carter Akerfelds
and then upended Highlands Ranch 8-3 in the regional championship behind a complete game from sophomore Ryan Stohr
Now the Eagles enter the double-elimination state tournament – scheduled to start Sunday at All City Field and Metro State – with a decidedly vibrant vibe.
"I wouldn't say an aura of confidence, but rather an attitude of, ‘We don't have pressure on us. We are just going to go play hard and have fun like we did last Saturday,'" Eagles coach Jeff Legault said. "It's much different than it was last year, when we felt we had to perform and keep advancing. We said all year, just get us into districts, and with our pitching we have a good chance to win two games in one day. And when you get to state anything can happen."
Akerfelds (4-2, 3.63 ERA, 58 strikeouts) and Stohr (4-3, 2.01 ERA, 42 K's) have been solid all season and appear to be cresting as state comes into focus. Dakota Ridge (12-9) opens against Mountain Vista (Highlands Ranch)
(16-5) on Friday at Metro State.
Akerfelds broke his back in last season's regional championship game and the Eagles were unsure if he'd be ready for this season.
"He decided to pitch only and has been solid all year," Legault said. "With him not able to swing a bat and resting more in between starts, almost every time he takes the mound he goes a full seven innings or until his pitch count is up. For him to throw like he did was no surprise to me, but it seems like he is saving his best stuff for the end of the season."
As for the favorites in 5A, familiar standbys Cherry Creek (Greenwood Village)
and Rocky Mountain (Fort Collins)
are in the fray once again. Additional regional hosts that took care of business last weekend include Legend (Parker)
, Rock Canyon (Highlands Ranch)
, Legacy (Broomfield)
and aforementioned Mountain Vista, Dakota Ridge's first-round opponent. Colorado state baseball brackets
Regionals were a little wilder in Class 4A
, as only half of the top seeds survived. Thompson Valley (Loveland)
and Thomas Jefferson (Denver)
all went on the road and swept a pair of games to end up in the tourney. That creates one unforeseen first-round matchup as Thompson Valley and Golden will square off. Thompson Valley's Mike Berg
leads the classification with 38 RBI.
Most intriguing in 4A, which will be played at All-Star Park and Bishop Machebeuf High School, is the first-round matchup featuring Pueblo West
and Valor Christian (Highlands Ranch)
. Last season, Valor defeated the Cyclones twice on the final day of the tournament to corral the state crown. Alan Garcia
has clubbed eight homers for Pueblo West this season.
Other host seeds that escaped 4A regionals were Air Academy (US Air Force Academy)
and Silver Creek (Longmont)
. Cole Winn
is 9-0 for Silver Creek this season and has struck out a whopping 95 batters in just under 48 innings. In Class 3A,
it was even more hazardous to be a top seed at regionals. Only three escaped – Lamar
, La Junta
and Peak to Peak (Lafayette)
– and the remainder of the state bracket is filled with teams that overachieved on the road. There are some familiar names among the fray, however, most notably Eaton
and Faith Christian (Arvada)
Eaton has dominated the classification for several seasons, and despite an uncharacteristic fourth-place finish in the Patriot League, few counted out the Reds when the postseason came around. And Faith Christian won it all last season, so the Eagles weren't about to bow out easily, either.
Other road warriors that sneaked into the fray are Colorado Academy (Denver)
, Valley (Gilcrest)
. But all of this has done nothing to diminish Lamar's status as the favorite. The Savages, led by Tyler Geddes
(classification-leading six homers and 44 RBI), are 20-1 and enter state on a 19-game winning streak. The 3A tourney will be played at Butch Butler Field (Greeley) and Niwot. The 2A
state tournament, to be played in Pueblo, features a straight-up 16-team bracket and single-elimination format. Paonia
(21-0) earned the top seed for the second straight season and will be looking to avenge a loss to Limon
in the semifinals last season.
If Limon is going to make another run to the championship game, the Badgers will have to do so as a No. 15. Last season's champ, Dawson School, isn't in the bracket as the Mustangs were tripped up by Dayspring Christian (Greeley)
in districts. The Eagles are seeded ninth and will open against No. 8 Hotchkiss
Other top-shelf contenders include No. 2 Peyton
, No. 3 Sedgwick County (Julesburg)
and No. 4 County Line
. Of note, Paonia features the top home-run hitter in Kayden Seriani
(nine) and RBI producer in Trevor Smith
(46). Peyton's Rodney Gregg
enters 9-1 with an 0.62 and 76 strikeouts in 45 innings.
The championship game is set in 1A
, as top-seeded Holly
(13-2) will aim for its second straight title against No. 7 Nucla
(12-9). This one was proactively moved from Thursday at All-Star Park to Saturday at Metro State (time TBA).
This buys extra rest for probable pitchers Ricardo Juarez
of Holly and Trenton Armintrout
of Nucla. Juarez shut out Fleming 5-0 to win the 2016 championship.