GREELEY — After losing a tight one on Friday, University wasn’t going to leave any doubt that it is the best Class 3A baseball team in the state of Colorado.
The Bulldogs wasted no time, scoring four runs in the first inning and never letting up in a 21-2 win over Lamar to win the 3A baseball championship on Saturday at Butch Butler Field. It is the fourth title for University and its first since 1997.
“That's one thing I had thought about," University's first-year coach Casey Miller said. ”I came over from a really solid Windsor program and when this job came open, I jumped all over it. I knew what I was getting into here. I knew these guys were quality baseball players.
It was the ultimate bounce back game for the Bulldogs (23-3 overall) who lost to Lamar a day earlier. Going into the final day of the 3A tournament on Saturday, Lamar burned Colton Eberhardt in a 3-1 win over Faith Christian earlier in the day.
Coach Jason Venya had no choice to but go into the state championship game with a pitch-by-committee approach and University took advantage early. The Bulldogs scored four runs in the first inning of the game, knocking Eberhardt out of the game before Lamar could even register an out.
“It was one of those things where we didn't talk about it, but we knew we had to do it,” senior Grayson Swanson said. "They're a good team. They're a fantastic team and both times we've played them this year, we've been in the lead and they come and take from us in the fourth or fifth inning."
This time would be different. Lamar (24-3) got one run back in the bottom of the first but couldn’t match the pace that University was getting base runners across home plate. Swanson put the Bulldogs up 10-1 in the top of the third with a three-run blast over the left field. He ended the day hitting for the cycle and hitting an additional home run on top of it.
At that moment, the feeling of winning a state championship got a little more real, even if the Bulldogs knew there was still work to do.
“I want to say (we had it in hand)," Swanson said. "Nine runs still wasn't enough for these guys. I knew we wanted more. It felt great and it felt fantastic, but we needed more."
Dalton Chandler was unavailable for Lamar as he had reached his pitch count limit on Friday. University didn’t have that problem as Cameron Multer went the five full innings, striking out three. He never got himself into too much trouble, but with a four-run pad before even taking the mound, he knew he had some room to work with.
"Pitching with a lead is the easiest thing to do in baseball," Multer said. "Once we got up, I just felt good out there."
The win came just 24 hours after the Bulldogs had Lamar up 2-0 only to have Chandler win the game with a walk-off hit. Knowing that they needed runs if they were going to win a title, Miller had faith that the offense would crank it up a bit with everything on the line.
"I knew what our barrels were capable of," Miller said. "At one point in the season, we couldn't miss. We played a good game yesterday against Lamar and Dalton Chandler and I knew we were close. I'm happy the guys broke it open today. "
University had advanced to the final weekend of the tournament in both 2015 and 2016, but missed last year.
And in the first few hitters of Saturday's championship game, the Bulldogs looked like a group that didn't belong anywhere else but as the lone team standing at the conclusion of the 2018 season.