GREELEY — Well, no one was just going to hand Eaton baseball another state championship.
Even with a 25-0 record entering Wednesday, a run of success matched by only a few programs in any sport at any school, and the winningest-active coach in the nation (at more than 800 victories) in Jim Danley, the Reds still had to prove their worth at Butch Butler Field to win the Class 3A title.
They lost Game 1 to Brush 4-3 after a gem by Kyle Rosenbrock, but Eaton (26-1) turned around to beat the Beetdiggers 7-1 in the evening. The victory earned the program its 11th state title in the sport.
The Reds have now claimed more championships in baseball than any other program in Colorado.
"It means a lot to this community," Eaton's Ryan Koehler said of title No. 11. "We have a lot of love for our fans."
An undefeated record in a double-elimination bracket gave Eaton the advantage of having to win just one game, while their Patriot League rivals had to win two to earn the crown.
The Beetdiggers, riding its ace in Rosenbrock, put the pressure on the Reds, though. The senior gave up 10 hits and eight walks, but was masterful in the clutch as he struck out 12 and stranded 13 Eaton runners. And the all-sport star — who was named the 2A football player of the year and plays basketball, wrestles and runs track — threw 159 pitches.
He even started Game 2.
But the Beetdiggers made a pitching change after one inning, going with BJ Hirshfeld. Then, they made another change, then another, then another.
After fighting past University on Tuesday in the semis and then coming back for a doubleheader against the Reds, Brush (19-7) seemed to run out of gas.
In 2013, Holy Family beat Eaton back-to-back to earn the crown. 2014, the Tigers prevailed over the Reds again. But this year, the squad in white and red had the depth and the grit to win its first championship since 2012, a season when the Reds took out Brush again.
More than anything Wednesday — depth prevailed.
From Ryan Koehler’s six-hit, one-run performance on the mound; to Brady Tedesco's pair of two-out, two-run hits; to Lane Greiman's fantastic fielding and relief pitching, Eaton just had too much firepower in Game 2.
The trio of seniors, and their many talented teammates up and down the lineup, snatched the Reds another baseball championship to bring back to their proud community.
"The luxury of being able to save Ryan Koehler was one we thought might result in a championship, because very few teams have the ability to save that kind of quality pitcher," Danley said. "We were fortunate to be able to do that. We have a deep staff and they worked hard to put us in that position."
"We're blessed with pitching and we're blessed with guys who love to be on the mound," said Tedesco, who started Game 1. "We trust anyone to go out there."
As for the value of Danley's seniors?
"They pitched, they hit, and they are great leaders," the veteran coach said. "They know how to rally a ballclub."
Eaton is used to excellence, but that doesn’t mean they took another title for granted. The fact it was a record No. 11 just added a little something extra.
"It's special. We are so blessed," Tedesco said.