AURORA — Golden’s baseball season ended Tuesday afternoon at Machebeuf Field.
A 6-4 loss to Air Academy in an elimination game of the Class 4A state tournament series officially closed the book on what was a wild and at times strange season for the Demons (12-11 record).
“We had a lot of ups and downs. We had a lot of good moments and bad moments. I think that is what helped us, shape us,” Golden junior Jacob Douthit said after the season-ending loss. “I think we’ll be back next year. These juniors are going to lead us.”
The junior-laded team led Golden to its first appearance to the double-elimination state tournament since 2008, the final year Brad Madden coached the Demons before moving over to Green Mountain High School. Madden guided Golden to the 4A 2003 state championship before winning two more 4A titles — 2014 and 2015 — with Green Mountain.
“We’ve been talking about it for a year. We have the potential to be really good,” said second-year Golden coach Jackie McBroom. “Obviously, the culture hasn’t been there in the (recent) past. Rebuilding that culture is tough. I’m super proud of these guys. They are a little ahead of schedule.”
Golden’s wild ride this season was highlighted by winning its district tournament in Canon City, despite being the No. 4 seed in the four-team bracket. It seemed like an improbable run after a three-game losing streak where 4A Jeffco rivals Evergreen, Valor Christian and Green Mountain outscored the Demons 35-8.
A key 11-10 victory in Golden’s regular-season finale against Littleton helped spark the playoff run.
“I believed,” Golden junior Jack McLaughlin said of the Demons making the state tournament series. “We’ve battled all year. Our goal at the beginning of the year was to make it here. We worked hard all fall and winter to get here.”
Despite going 0-2 at the state tournament, the Demons didn’t go down easily. Golden trailed Thompson Valley 6-0 heading to the sixth inning in a first-round game Monday at All Star Park in Lakewood. The Demons rallied before eventually losing 9-8 in extra innings.
“Honestly, I didn’t see it coming,” Douthit admitted about Golden’s run to the state tournament. “We just fought through every game. Yesterday was a good example. We were down six runs and we had a seven-run inning. We kept fighting. That is what got us here.”
Air Academy seemed to have things well in hand against Golden on Tuesday. The Kadets held a 5-1 lead through four innings with junior pitcher Micah Bregard throwing a no-hitter. However, the Demons punched across three runs in the top of the fifth inning to make a game of it.
McLaughlin and junior Max Allen started off the inning with back-to-back singles. Those would be the only hits for the Demons in the loss. Golden took advantage of eight walks, three errors and a wild pitch to score their four runs.
“You would like to jump ahead early and not have to fight back, but it’s nice when you get down early you see your kids not give up,” McBroom said. “We did that for two games. We were in both games in the final inning to give ourselves a chance to win.”
Golden loses just one player in senior Matt Kneeskern. Very similar to the Demons’ boys basketball program that made the Final 4 of the 4A state tournament last winter with only one senior in Kaden Sund.
“The future is bright here,” McLaughlin said. “We didn’t come out on top, but at the end of the day it’s a great experience. We’ll be back next year.”
The Jeffco League will be strongly represented in the Final 4 of the 4A state championship series set for Friday and Saturday, May 26 and 27. Defending state champion Valor and Evergreen both advanced to the Final 4 winning their first two game of the tournament.
“The best thing about playing in Jeffco is we see good competition and that makes us a better team,” Douthit said. “I’m happy for Evergreen and Valor to be in the position they are in. They deserve it.”