LAKEWOOD — During a pitching change in the bottom of the seventh inning, Cornerstone Christian Academy coach Dustin Conley had to check on his runner at second.
Alex Roedel was hobbling and had been all day. But he had just ripped an RBI double that pulled the Bulldogs into a 3-3 tie with Nucla in the Class 1A baseball state championship game.
A runner with a bum leg. Trenton Rowan can get a hit, is that runner with a bum leg going to do everything he can to score. Is he going to give it 100 percent and fight through the pain?
Because him scoring wasn't just going to win his team a state title, it was going to give CCA its first team state championship in school history.
With a bum leg, was he going to give it his all?
Roedel sent his coach back to the dugout.
"They ask if I could bust it out," Roedel said. "(Heck) yeah, I can bust it out. I'm going home."
And he followed through on his word. Rowan ripped a base hit and Roedel labored around third base and crossed home safely. The scoreboard read 4-3 in favor of the Bulldogs. There was no need to play more baseball.
There was only a need to celebrate.
The remaining players in the dugout split in two. Half went to the kid who scored the game-winning run and the other half went to the one standing on first base. Maybe jumping up and down near first base by that point.
"It's a lot of fun," Conley said. "It's my first year with the team and we came in with the mindset that we had to be tough."
And they were. The Bulldogs (23-1 overall) took a 1-0 lead in the first and watched as pitcher Cade Walker worked his magic on the mound. He surrendered just two hits in 5.1 innings of work before being pulled for maxing out his pitch count.
Then things got tricky. Tyler Wytulka blasted an RBI double to tie the game. The Mustangs (16-6) plated two more in the sixth to take a 3-1 lead late in the game.
"If you watched the semifinal game, we came back from a two-run deficit," Walker said. "We knew we could do it again. We'd like to go into the later innings with a lead, but we pulled it off."
Nucla came into the game having won the 1A crown two years earlier and taking runner-up honors in 2018. The Mustangs had to mount a rally of their own in their semifinal game as they grabbed a 7-4 lead in the sixth. They beat Otis 7-5 to advance to the title game.
But defensive struggles bit the Mustangs early and allowed Cody Koehn to score the game's first run in the bottom of the first. And it seemed like the Bulldogs were going to build on that lead throughout the game. But with runners on base, Will Gabriel never faltered and kept his guys in it.
Like Walker, Gabriel was pulled for the game when his team had the lead. But it was the Bulldogs who emerged victorious.
Like Roedel in the bottom of the seventh, they made sure to give every ounce of effort hoping it would pay off. As a result, the first state championship banner will be hung in the walls of the school.