DENVER -- Rocky Mountain staked claim to its fifth Class 5A state baseball title over the past eight seasons Saturday afternoon at All-City Field.
The Lobos defeated Regis Jesuit 6-5 to give Rocky Mountain its first baseball championship since its four-peat from 2007 to 2010. Rocky Mountain (21-5) closed out its season on an 18-game win streak, including a 5-0 record in the double-elimination state championship series.
“It feels amazing,” Rocky Mountain coach Scott Bullock said. “I think the thing that makes it feel most amazing is it’s a whole new bunch of kids. Great group of kids that put in a tremendous amount of work to get to this point.”
Despite grabbing a 6-0 lead with a six-run top of the third inning, the Lobos ended up having to hang on by the skin of their teeth. Regis (21-5) actually had the tying run on third base and winning run on second base with one out in the bottom of the seventh inning.
A Raiders’ win would have forced a second game Saturday at All-City with the winner of that game hoisting the state title. However, Rocky Mountain senior pitcher Tyler Stevens dug deep to get the final two outs.
“Once they got the bases load with two outs and I had two strikes on (Quin Cotton) I knew I had to make a pitch,” said Stevens, who took over on the mound for Rocky Mountain in the fourth inning. “I just threw as hard as I could and got the groundout.”
Cotton grounded into a fielder’s choice as Lobos’ shortstop Daniel Ciraula was able to field the grounder and toss to second baseman Dean Lawson to get the force out to end the game.
“I love all my teammates,” a teary-eyed Rocky Mountain senior Carl Stajduhar said after getting a hug from his dad. “To go out senior year like this is just awesome.”
Rocky Mountain scored all of its six runs in one inning. The Lobos’ bats came alive in a big way in the top of the third inning. The Lobos plated six runs on five hits to jump out to a 6-0 lead.
Stajduhar started the scoring with a two-run single. Rocky Mountain scored a third run on the hit on a fielding error.
“I knew with the bases loaded and Carl coming up we were going to score. That was huge,” Stevens said. “We just kept plugging and chugging to get our six runs which happened to be enough.”
Stevens and Kyle Reisman followed up with back-to-back RBI singles to push the lead to 5-0. Regis starting pitcher Brent Schwarz was relieved on the mound by Zach Heath after the single Reisman. The Lobos’ final run in the six-run inning came on a passed ball.
Regis was able to get on the board with an RBI sacrifice fly by senior Reagan Todd in the bottom half of the third inning. However, Stajduhar was able to limit the damage to just one run thanks to a pair of strikeouts after the Raiders loaded the bases with no outs.
The Raiders tacked on another run in the bottom of the fourth inning after Stevens relived Stajduhar on the hill. Zach Woodruff led off the inning with a double and scored on a double play ground out, cutting Rocky Mountain’s lead to 6-2.
Regis continued to chip away at Rocky Mountain’s lead. Todd belted a two-run home run in the bottom of the fifth inning making it a 6-4 game. Todd ripped a walk-off grand slam home run Friday against Mountain Vista in the bottom of the seventh inning to give Regis a 5-1 victory.
“When we started getting momentum I even liked our chances better even if we were behind,” Regis coach Matt Darr said. “I felt like we would come back and win that game. I really did.”
An RBI single by Brooks Urich in the bottom of the sixth inning cut the lead to 6-5, but the Raiders couldn’t plate the tying run. Stevens forced a pop up by Max George and struck out Justin Thaxton with runners at the corners to end the inning.
Despite scoring five unanswered runs, the Raiders left 11 runners on base and wasn’t able to take full advantage of seven walks.
Bullock admitted after the victory he didn’t know who would have thrown a second game Saturday if Regis had completed the come-from-behind win. Marc Bachman, Chase Ottofy and Cory Richer pitched in Friday’s win against Cherry Creek.
“It was rolling the dice. No question about it,” Bullock said about throwing his two best pitchers in Stajduhar and Stevens. “I felt like we did such a good job in the third inning to get the lead. We wanted the ball in Tyler’s hands and it was the time to go to him.”
Heath’s performance on the mound allowed the Raiders to rally. Heath came in during the Lobos’ six-run third inning and only gave up two hits in four and two-thirds on the hill.
“In that situation where you fall that far behind you feel like you need somebody to come in and hold them at six (runs),” Darr said. “You feel if they get any more it would be nearly impossible.”
The nearly impossible comeback by Regis nearly happened, but in the end the Lobos were able to take another state championship baseball title back to Fort Collins.
“It’s amazing. This program needed it after last year,” Stevens said of losing to ThunderRidge in the title game. “We wanted to do it and we did it finally.”