DENVER — Regis Jesuit emerged as the lone remaining unbeaten team in the Class 5A state baseball tournament on the strength of its pitching and stellar defense.
The Raiders' latest win, a 3-0 decision against Grandview on Saturday, assured that they will play for a championship during next weekend's Final 4. The Raiders, who have now won 10 games in a row, went 3-0 on the first weekend of the state tournament.
"It's the first step," said Regis Jesuit coach Matt Darr. "When you win the first three, most of the time you've got a better shot at it. It's hard to come through. With our pitching and depth, we've got a shot anyways, but this helps, because now somebody else has to do that."
Regis Jesuit used just six pitchers over the three games. Their combined stats: 21 innings pitched, three runs allowed on just 13 hits.
That includes a masterful start from Jacob Thompsen in Saturday's game, in which he threw six innings and allowed just three hits, and struck out five against four walks.
"The bigger the moment, the better he is," Darr said of his junior right-hander who also threw a complete-game shutout in the district championship against Chatfield last week. "I'm going to live and die with him on the mound. He's tough."
The Raiders scored all three runs in the first two innings, and the quick start helped calm the dugout.
"It let's everyone relax. It lets the pitcher relax," Darr said. "You don't have to feel like you have to be perfect at that point, and I think everyone just gets to breathe a little bit and just play baseball instead of checking the scoreboard every inning."
Said Thompsen of getting spotted a lead: "It gives you a lot of a confidence, and a little room to work."
Grandview loaded the bases in both the fourth and fifth innings, but Thompsen got out of both situations. In the fourth, second baseman Mac Padilla made a great play to tag a runner and throw to first to complete a double-play and end the inning.
"That's a big one," Darr said.
"That was a huge play," Thompsen said. "It got us pumped up, and we just continued to play well."
The loss snapped a 16-game winning streak for a red-hot Grandview team.
Both Regis Jesuit and Grandview will head to next weekend's Final 4 in the double-elimination tournament. Mountain Vista and Cherry Creek will join them after surviving through the elimination bracket on Saturday.
The Final 4 will be league matchups: Because they haven't played yet in the bracket, Regis Jesuit will face Mountain Vista (Continental League) and Grandview will face Cherry Creek (Centennial).
As the lone remaining unbeaten team, Regis Jesuit will play in the final game of the season, even if they lose in the Final 4.
The Raiders are seeking their first championship since 2011, when they won the 5A title.
Mountain Vista reached the Final 4 for the third consecutive season with a 9-0 win over Chaparral on Saturday afternoon at All-City.
"It's a good group," said Mountain Vista coach Ron Quintana. "I don't know what else to say, they put the work in, the time, and this senior class is special."
As they've done, the Golden Eagles started hot with six runs over the first two innings, including a home run from Drew Stahl to lead off the game for the second consecutive day.
"It takes that pressure off," Quintana said of the homer. "When your leadoff guy, obviously twice now in three games, leads off with a home run, it gives those guys in the lineup a little bit more confidence. Not that they need it, but it kind makes it, 'OK, here we go.' It takes that pressure off."
Mountain Vista starter Clay Burke was excellent, throwing a complete-game shutout in which he allowed just two hits, and struck out nine. He needed just 82 pitches.
"He got in a rhythm, and when our starters get in a rhythm, it's fun to watch," Quintana said.
Mountain Vista is the defending 5A champion, and after losing the first game of the tournament last season, worked its way all the way back to win the title in elimination games the rest of the way.
"I think they've built off that. I mean, this group is three-straight years in the Final 4," Quintana said. "When you see the Creeks and the Rocky Mountains, that's how they keep advancing every year when they're here. You get that playoff experience, and certain things don't get too big."
Cherry Creek had a wild ride to make the Final 4. The Bruins trailed Rocky Mountain 7-0 after the top of the fourth — but they started chipping away in the bottom half.
Nathan Mitchell and Ben Perla each singled a run home, and then Clay Cutter scored on a passed ball. It was 7-3.
An inning later, Brice Martinez scored in a passed ball, and then Sam Schroeder came home on a balk. Suddenly, it was 7-5.
The game came down to the bottom of the seventh: Jack Moss and Schroeder each singled, and then Mitchell brought them home with a triple. Tie game.
After two walks, with the bases loaded, Perla pushed the winning run across on a bunt. 8-7. Pandemonium. Cherry Creek had come all the way back, punching its ticket to next week.
Earlier Saturday, Chaparral had eliminated Heritage with a 6-1 win. Preston Tenney, the Wolverines' starter, was great: He threw 6 2/3 innings, allowing just one earned runs on five hits, and he struck out eight.
Rocky Mountain eliminated Legacy by beating them 6-1. Cade Nelson tossed a complete-game three hitter, and had six strikeouts.