No. 2 Pine Creek baseball looking to exorcise a two-year-old ghost

Pine Creek baseball

(Dan Mohrmann/CHSAANow.com)

COLORADO SPRINGS — If there's one thing Pine Creek baseball coach Glenn Millhauser knows, it's that rankings, regular season or otherwise, don't mean anything.

That's why talking about two years ago still hurts.

"I'd rather not (talk about it)," Millhauser said.

Understandably so. The Eagles went into the 2016 Class 5A districts as the No. 1 overall seed, but didn't escape the weekend. They lost to Rocky Mountain, who went on to finish runner-up in the state tournament that year.

But that loss still stings for the Eagles.

"The seed was tough," Millhauser said. "Rocky Mountain was good that year. They had gone down to Florida and their RPI was down, but I knew they were very good."

Still, the feeling of going into a tournament as the perceived top seed and coming away with nothing is a feeling that Millhauser and his team will never forget.

In the first RPI rankings released this week, Pine Creek was sitting at No. 10 in the baseball RPI. It's probably not as high as the coaches and players would like. But if they're feeding off the lesson that was taught to them two years ago, they shouldn't just want to be perceived as one of the top teams in the state. They should just play baseball like they're one of the best teams in the state and worthy of the No. 2 ranking in the CHSAANow.com baseball poll.

So that's exactly what they're doing.

The Eagles have three pitchers on the roster who have thrown over 11 innings this season and have ERAs under 2.00.

Pine Creek baseball

(Dan Mohrmann/CHSAANow.com)

That trio is led by Riley Cornelio, a junior who has registered more strikeouts than the number of hits the entire Eagles pitching staff has surrendered all year.

"People are starting to understand what we're about," Cornelio said. "We're going to continue to go out and prove who we are."

It helps to have the support of one of the best lineups across the state. Everyone knows what first baseman Justin Olson brings in the No. 3 spot of the order. In a win over Coronado on Thursday, the University of Kentucky commit blasted home runs in his first two at-bats of the game.

He was offered an intentional free pass to first in his next plate appearance.

But he's not the only one who can mash baseballs. Zac Heisler and Kit Wigington each hit three-run bombs and Parker Gregory hit a grand slam in the win over the Cougars.

"We all just build off each other's successes," Olson said. "Parker wasn't even starting at the beginning of the year. You can see it now, he's proven to be one of our best hitters out here."

But no one has the power that Olson yields. With his two home runs on Thursday, he put himself solely atop the leaderboard for all hitters in the state. Millhauser even raved about the home runs he hit over spring break when the Eagles went to Arizona.

But now that the team is back in Colorado and focused on the task at hand which is getting back to regionals and advancing to the 5A state tournament.

The trip-up that happens two years ago still stings, but the hope is that it can serve as a tool to push this team toward what it feels its capable of.

"We're not going to let that happen again," Olson said. "We're not going to have a letdown like that ever again. We're going to go far. We're something special and we know it."