Those who fail to learn history are doomed to repeat it.

Denver North baseball coach Ernesto Marquez preaches this to his team on a regular basis.

"Every day," he says.

Okay. A very regular basis.

But it's a lesson worth preaching often. The Vikings had a banner year in 2016. They went 18-1 in the regular season and clinch their first Denver Prep League title in nearly two decades. The only thing their storybook season needed was a deep playoff run.

But Niwot and senior pitcher Ford Ladd had other ideas. The Cougars walked onto Denver North's own field and beat the Class 4A District 7 host 10-3.

"It was disheartening because I hated seeing the seniors go out like that," junior Harris Williams said. "Those guys worked really hard and the rest of the team worked really hard. Watching that big, tall dude from Niwot just mow us down with his curveball hurt because we couldn’t make the adjustment. It was hard. It was a tough loss."

The Vikings came into 2017 refocused. And it's playing out nearly the same way that last year did in the regular season. At 15-0, they're a clear favorite to come away with another league title. They hadn't won one in almost 20 years before last season. They'll have two in as many years if they continue their hot play for the final four games of the season.

The key to success this year is feeding off last year's ending. In hindsight, they can't be upset about a 18-2 that included a league title. But they had a hard time coming to grips with that idea at the time.

"Two goals that were being repeated to us were (winning) city and (getting to) state," senior Jose Robles said. "Those are the two biggest goals that we try to accomplish every year. So accomplishing the first one felt good, but even though we were winning that, we hadn't accomplished anything. We still wanted to get to that next level and compete with the schools like the Jeffco schools that are pretty competitive."

As the ace of the Vikings pitching staff, each time Robles takes the mound he puts together a performance that doesn't command respect as much as demand it.

He has given up only five earned runs all year over 46 and 2/3 innings. For those counting at home, that's an ERA of 0.75.

"That kid, believe it or not, is going to play at the next level as a catcher," Marquez said. "He only has five innings where he hasn’t played this year. Mentally, he's right. He's good to go. Him being a catcher allows him to essentially call his own game. I let him go and he's very comfortable, very mature up there on the bump."

Kennedy Denver North baseball

(Jeff Tucker/jefferywtucker.zenfolio.com)

He's performing at the plate as well. He's batting .519 with two home runs and is getting on base better than 64 percent of the time.

The entire Vikings lineup has been steady throughout the season. Williams leads the team with a .581 average, six doubles and 19 runs scored.

Judah Wilbur has also ripped six doubles and scored 19 runs. It's all a byproduct of each player having a defined job at their spot in the lineup.

"We talk about everyone's role in the lineup. As the game goes on those roles change," Marquez said. "Some guys are there to get on base and some guys are there to drive in runs."

A bonafide ace on the mound, a threatening lineup from top to bottom and the experience of going into the playoffs a little cocky might just help this year's Denver North team find the success that eluded them last season.

As the final days in April tick away, the players can't help but get a little hungry for a playoff run to start.

"As much as I dislike it, and as much as we want to look at it one game at a time, I can tell that playoffs are on everybody's mind," Williams said. "We're excited for it. We're really trying to dominate DPS and dominate 4A to the best of our ability."

But in order to do that, they can't get complacent. They admittedly were so happy about winning a city title last year, that they entered the playoffs flat.

Never again.

A city title is nice, but it is no longer the goal. They have ambitions of a much more prestigious trophy. And they're best tool to help them win it is a loss from a year ago that still stings to this day.

They can't forget that feeling.

"When it comes to what happened in the playoffs, of course we're going to remember," Robles said. "It's almost like a chip on our shoulder. We want to come out and prove that we can play with anyone that's out there in 4A."

(Jeff Tucker/jefferywtucker.zenfolio.com)