Ever-resilient Cherokee Trail wins 5A baseball state championship

(Ryan Casey/CHSAANow.com)

Cherokee Trail won the Class 5A baseball championship. (Ryan Casey/CHSAANow.com)

DENVER — Lightning hovered in the area of All-City Stadium as the Class 5A baseball championship was to be decided Sunday, threatening clouds ruining a clear blue sky.

It didn't get close enough to cause a delay — but it did seem to find the bat of Cherokee Trail senior Eric Cox, who provided the spark that delivered a state championship to the Cougars.

Cox hit a game-changing two-run home run in the third inning, and Cherokee Trail beat Rocky Mountain 9-4 to win the 5A title on Saturday.

"Everything. It was everything," Cherokee Trail coach Allan Dyer said of the home run. "It just got us started. We just needed a breakthrough, and Eric has been the guy all year, and he just did it."

The resilient Cougars rebounded from a 2-0 loss earlier in the day, and rallied from a 3-0 hole in the deciding game to secure the championship, the program's second.

In a way, it was a microcosm of their season, which started off with back-to-back losses.

"That's defined this group all year, is their resiliency," Dyer said. "We just told them to hang in there."

Down 3-0 in the third inning, Cox hit the home run to right field to cut into the deficit.

"You could just see the energy in the dugout. It was crazy," Cox said. "We were down both games, and like we have been all year, we brought the energy back up in the dugout."

In the fourth, the Cougars tied the game on an errant pickoff attempt — which set the stage for John-Michael Osley. With two runners on, the second baseman doubled both home to give his team a 5-3 lead.

(Ryan Casey/CHSAANow.com)

(Ryan Casey/CHSAANow.com)

"I was just trying to have fun," Osley said. "I looked at my partner in crime, Jerome Bohannon, and every time I look at him, I try to smile and remember to have fun playing the game. That's just what went through my head: 'Just have fun, and try and put a good swing on it.'"

Said Dyer of Osley: "He's just been the clutch hitter for us all tournament, he's been the guy."

Two innings later, Osley added another RBI double to make it 6-3. Bohannon followed that with a two RBI single to make it 8-3.

Osley finished 2-for-4 with three RBIs, while Bohannon was 2-for-3 with the two RBIs.

Bohannon also starred on the mound, throwing a complete game. He struck out six, walked four, and allowed just three earned runs on seven hits.

Bohannon worked his way out of key situations, including stranding a runner at second in the bottom of the sixth, and at one point retired eight consecutive batters.

It was consistent with his play during the entire tourney — he hit two home runs the first weekend, and finished with eight RBIs in six games. He was also the winning pitcher in two games.

"We knew coming into today that we had our big guys (pitching)," Dyer said. "We knew it was ours to lose."

Rocky Mountain got a stellar performance from John Sorensen in the first game to even force a winner-take-all championship with the 2-0 win. But because Cherokee Trail entered the day unbeaten in the tournament, Rocky Mountain needed to beat the Cougars twice to win a championship.

The Cougars didn't waste their second chance, proving their resilience once again.

"That is the story of our season," Osley said. "That's the type of team we are. We don't let anything get us down, and coach Dyer always tells us that that's what makes our team great, is our resiliency and our ability to come back."

(Ryan Casey/CHSAANow.com)

(Ryan Casey/CHSAANow.com)

(Ryan Casey/CHSAANow.com)

(Ryan Casey/CHSAANow.com)

(Ryan Casey/CHSAANow.com)

(Ryan Casey/CHSAANow.com)