3A baseball: Lutheran, 2-0 in the tournament, is getting hot at the right time

(Brock Laue/CHSAANow.com)

GREELEY — On a team full of capable hitters, Brody Schneider often leads the way. So when Lutheran watched their senior shortstop crank a two-run homer in the first inning of the Class 3A state baseball tournament, a beauty over the left field fence, the Lions’ other hitters stepped up too.

They did enough damage in wins over St. Mary’s (6-3) and Resurrection Christian (15-5) to put them in a favorable position heading into Saturday with a 2-0 tournament record. Lutheran will face University on Saturday at 2:30 p.m. at Butch Butler Field in Greeley.

In a double-elimination playoff, with two losses needed to knock a team out, the winner of that game will be the only remaining 3-0 group in the bracket. Yes, Lutheran is in a good position.

“It was really important for us to start 2-0,” Schneider said. “We’re getting super hot at the right time and that’s all that matters.”

How did Schneider, a senior, feel about starting Lutheran’s scoring binge with a home run against St. Mary’s?

“It was super cool,” he said. “I try to keep level-minded and hit line drives. To put that one out is absolutely awesome.”

Brody Schneider. (Brock Laue/CHSAANow.com)

Schneider now has 11 of the team’s 21 homers on the season, while also leading the Lions in batting average (.551 entering Friday) and RBI (45). He spoke humbly after the game, giving plenty of credit to his teammates, but Schneider carries a big stick.

After Teagan Rae scored on a wild throw in the first inning against Resurrection Christian, the Cougars’ Cooper Strong tied the game at one on a Lutheran error in the third. Schneider, who had an RBI single against St. Mary’s as well, came up with a big play in the bottom of the third.

Lutheran loaded the bases and then an unusual play occurred. A hard hit ball made contact with the foot of Rez pitcher Zach Cook, and then a throwing error to first base by another infielder allowed all three runners to score. Lutheran led 4-1, but the Cougars responded with RBI hits by Cooper Strong and Cook. The game was tied at four heading into the fourth frame.

That’s when the Lions really heated up.

Griffin Webb lined an RBI double. Nick Crandall, Carson James, freshman Dorian Pacheco, and Aaron Morgan also had RBI hits as Lutheran recorded eight consecutive hits in an amazing display of prowess in the batter’s box. The scoreboard read Lutheran 9, Resurrection Christian 4.

The Lions pushed the lead to 12-5 in the sixth and the game ended one inning early as Nate Nejedlo cleared the bases with a single, then an error by Rez. The Lions are sitting in a good position with a 2-0 record. University, the defending champions, are also 2-0 after claiming wins over Colorado Academy 5-3 and Delta 9-3 at the other 3A site, Butch Butler Field.

“That was our overall goal,” Lutheran coach Seth Sorensen said. “We needed to get two today. The bats were hot. We got a lot of young guys. For them to go up there and have some intent and some focus, I was just super proud of the way we approached the plate today.”

Colorado Academy will face Alamosa, who lost 5-4 to Delta, in an elimination game on Saturday. Eaton and St. Mary’s will face off in the other early elimination contest as Resurrection Christian (10-2 winners over Eaton) and Delta are also keeping title hopes alive.

Sawyer Shepard drove in a pair of runs in the fourth frame of Rez’s win over Eaton, with the help of the glaring sun in the left fielder’s eyes as he wasn’t able to find the ball on a deep fly. Andrew Iwanicki had a sac fly to lift the Cougars’ lead to 6-2. Will Schrotenboer tacked on a sac fly of his own and Ethan Wheeler notched an RBI single to open up an 8-2 margin.

In the bottom of the fifth, sophomore Zach Cook found the outfield grass for a two-RBI single. The Cougars could be very dangerous on Saturday.