Rivals Arapahoe and Heritage move on to face off in the 5A state baseball tourney

Arapahoe Cherokee Trail baseball

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DENVER — They meet annually, but this one will be of a little extra importance.

Arapahoe and Heritage, two rivals from Littleton Public Schools whose campuses are separated by 11 minutes, each went 2-0 on the first day of the Class 5A state baseball tournament.

It means they will face off in the always-important late game during the second day of the bracket on Tuesday — with the winner emerging as the lone unbeaten remaining in the field of eight. Both teams are assured of playing next weekend.

"That's going to be a good one," said Arapahoe senior Brandon Dryer. "Rivalry, Final 4, All-City? It doesn't get better than that."

Arapahoe beat Mountain Vista 8-1, and then Cherokee Trail 9-1 in advancing. 

Dryer and Jake Groth each homered in the first game for the Warriors, with Groth driving in two runs. Ryan Nourse also had two RBIs.

Drew Hayes threw a gem, allowing just three hits in a complete-game effort. He struck out five, and walked just two. Hayes hadn't pitched since April 23 as he recovered from a concussion — it was the type of performance a team gets when it succeeds in late May.

"He's the kind of kid that likes to get the ball in big games, so we were excited," said Arapahoe coach Jim Dollaghan.

In the second game, Garrett DeClure threw five innings in getting the win. He struck out seven, and allowed just four hits, three walks and one run. Spye Turnbeaugh followed that with two innings of one-hit pitching.

Arapahoe Cherokee Trail baseball

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Dryer and Hunter Jackson each had two RBIs.

In each win, Arapahoe got its bats going early.

Against Mountain Vista, which entered the game 21-0 and was the top overall seed in regionals, Arapahoe built a 6-0 lead after three innings. In the win over Cherokee Trail, it was 8-0 after two.

"It's easy when you come out and swing like that, because it just relaxes you, without a doubt, and it gives your pitchers a little bit of, 'Hey, it's not all on me,'" Dollaghan said. "That's the last phase of the game that we really haven't put everything together, is just swinging the bat. We've had good pitching at times, we've had good defense at times, and we've had great hitting at times, but really to see all three coming together at the same time is pretty exciting."

Now 16-7, Arapahoe has its most wins since the 2008 season. They have also turned it around from a 1-3 start to the year, as well as a 1-3 skid in mid-April.

"All of a sudden, our backs were against the wall," Dollaghan said.

So the team got to work, putting in extra time hitting against a pitching machine every day. It's paid off.

Another change?

"I think the biggest thing is our attitude, and just all clicking together," said DeClure.

Added Dryer: "We've had a rough year, no one ever believed in us. We never got any top-10 votes. Coming into the (first) game (against Mountain Vista), I think the only people in the state of Colorado who believed were people from Arapahoe.

"I was talking to a guy in the parking lot, and he said, 'How did you guys do?' and I said, 'Well, we beat Mountain Vista.' And his eyes lit up," Dryer continued. "We just believe in ourselves. We know we're a great team out here. We know we're a contender for state."

To advance earlier in the day on Monday, Cherokee Trail rallied to beat Rocky Mountain with a walk-off hit from Colten Chase.

Heritage played extremely well as it advanced in the winner's bracket, beating Mountain Range 7-0 in the first round, and then Pine Creek 12-2 in the second round.

Heritage Mountain Range baseball

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Riley Egloff starred in the win over Mountain Range, striking out nine in complete game performance. He allowed just four hits. Alex Champagne drove in two runs in the win for the Eagles.

In the second game, Heritage trailed Pine Creek 2-0 through four innings before erupting for 12 runs in the top of the fifth. Champagne again drove in two runs, while Gunnar Kozlowitz had four RBIs.

Lucas Quezada and Peter Chronowski combined on the mound for Heritage. Chronowski didn't allow a hit in two innings.

Pine Creek had advanced via a 3-2 win over Rock Canyon.

It all sets up a big rivalry game on Tuesday at All-City. First pitch is scheduled for 3 p.m.

"That's what high school sports are all about, is seeing the guys they've played with growing up, and their neighborhood buddies, and getting out there and battling," Dollaghan said.

Arapahoe has not beaten Heritage since 2014.

"We've got to focus like it's just another game — we can't make it too big — but it's definitely going to be a big atmosphere, a lot of people here, and it's going to be loud," Dryer said. "It's going to be a fun game."

Arapahoe Cherokee Trail baseball

(Jack Eberhard/JacksActionShots.com)