DENVER — Grandview baseball started this season 3-8. Now, the Wolves find themselves in prime position in the Class 5A state tournament.
Grandview went 2-0 on the first day of the double-elimination event, setting up an unbeaten showdown against Regis Jesuit on Saturday afternoon at All-City Field.
The Wolves beat Legacy 4-1 in their first game on Friday, then rallied to defeat defending champion Mountain Vista 7-6 in an afternoon contest — thanks in large part to a two-run home run from Josh Hojnowski in the top of the seventh inning.
"It starts with our seniors," said Grandview coach Scott Henry. "We've got a good group of senior leaders that really believed in this team from the get-go, even when it got rough at the beginning, and they never stopped fighting, never stopped believing, and we just kinda got hot.
"It's a credit to these guys, because they had an opportunity at 3-8 to kind of pack it in and say, 'This isn't our year,'" the coach added. "But we got a couple wins here and there and we really just started to believe that we could do anything."
Grandview has now won 16 games in a row.
"We've changed our mindset," said Grandview senior Amari Smith. "I think we came to our field kinda timid, and we focused on the other team and what they were doing, and what they could do. Now at this point of the season, we're focused on us, and we're not really worried about anything else."
Hojnowski's home run on Friday afternoon, a two-run shot to straight away center field, was the first of the senior's season.
"I was just trying to put the ball in play at that point, and the ball just kept going," Hojnowski said. "It was very special. I was just overwhelmed with joy."
Said Henry: "There's not a better kid that that could've happened to. I saw him coming around second base, how excited he was, how excited his teammates were for him. He's a great kid — great kid — and he deserves so much success."
Grandview and Mountain Vista played a tight contest throughout the day. The Wolves jumped out to a 3-0 lead after the top of the second — only to see Mountain Vista put up a four-spot in the bottom half. Included in that inning was a solo home run from Clay Burke.
The Wolves inserted Garrett Lippold with one out in the second, and he stopped the bleeding.
"He limited them to four. I thought that was huge," Henry said. "He just had them off balance all game."
Lippold pitched into the seventh, going 5 1/3 innings, and he allowed just two runs on four hits.
Each team scored in the fifth, making it 5-4 Mountain Vista, and then Grandview tied the game at 5-5 in the sixth with an RBI single from Tony Castonguay.
"We just don't quit," Hojnowski said. "All season. We've always been down, and this team has no quit at all."
Lippold kept Mountain Vista scoreless in the bottom of the sixth, setting the stage for Hojnowski's two-run home run in the top of the seventh.
Mountain Vista's loaded lineup responded in the bottom of the seventh, though: Drew Stahl hit a solo home run to center field, and then they loaded the bases. Grandview brought in Harrison Boushele in relief, and he got the final out to seal the win for his third save of the season.
"The great thing about this group is that it's a different guy each day," Henry said. "It's not one guy leading us. It really is a team. It's fun."
It was a matchup of Class 5A's two hottest teams: Mountain Vista entered on a 20-game winning streak, and unbeaten against in-state teams; Grandview had won 15 in a row following the 3-8 start to their season.
The Wolves got a complete-game performance in its first game against Legacy, with Peter Goldy striking out seven and allowing no earned runs on four hits. Smith was 2-for-3 with three RBIs.
Smith followed that performance up with another big hit against Mountain Vista, which tied the game at 4-4 in the fifth.
"He had great at-bat after great at-bat," Henry said. "He was struggling earlier in the year, and we he started getting going, that's kind of when we started getting going."
Regis Jesuit also went 2-0 on the first day with a 7-0 win over Chaparral, and then a 6-3 victory against Cherry Creek.
In the first game, the Raiders' Patrick Strawbridge and Bradshaw Lewis combined on a five-hitter. The Raiders scored three runs in the first inning, and then Caden Wagner hit a solo home run to left field to spark a four-run third.
Against Cherry Creek, Mark Perchiazzi hit a three-run home run as part of a four-run first inning. Wagner and Geno Macias also drove in runs in the win.
Chase Allen threw five innings for the Raiders against Cherry Creek, allowing no runs on two hits. He had eight strikeouts.
Now 22-5, Regis Jesuit has won nine games in a row.
Regis Jesuit and Grandview met on April 8, a 3-2 Raiders win at Grandview which went nine innings.
Grandview plans to start Hojnowski, who is 7-3 with a 2.49 ERA in a team-high 53 1/3 innings this season.
Cherry Creek advanced Friday morning with a 5-1 win over Heritage. Nathan Mitchell threw a complete game for the Bruins, allowing just one unearned run and striking out five. Clay Cutter and Ben Perla each had two RBIs.
In its first game on Friday, Mountain Vista got a complete-game shutout from reigning player of the year Sam Ireland as he struck out 10 in a 5-0 win over Rocky Mountain.
The Golden Eagles scored all five runs in the top of the first, including a solo home run by Stahl, the leadoff hitter, on the first pitch he saw, as well as a two-RBI single from Matt Klein.
In elimination games at 9:30 a.m. Saturday, Chaparral and Heritage will play at All-City, and Legacy and Rocky Mountain will face off at All-Star Park.
The winners of those games will play again at noon, with Mountain Vista awaiting the winner at All-City, and Cherry Creek playing the winner at All-Star.
At 2:30 p.m., Regis Jesuit and Grandview will play at All-City in the unbeaten game. Win or lose in the game, both teams are assured of advancing to next weekend's Final 4 because of the double-elimination format.