DENVER — A near-two hour lightning delay did nothing to slow the Regis Jesuit Raiders. If anything, it seemed to energize them.
Already leading 3-0 when the game was halted in the top of the fourth, Regis Jesuit pushed four runs across an hour and 52 minutes later when it resumed. It sparked an eventual 8-3 win over Cherry Creek for the Class 5A baseball title, the program's first title since 2011, and third overall.
"It was frustrating, but I know this team was prepared for it," said Raiders junior Ethan O'Donnell. "I knew we had depth in pitching, so I knew we could wait them out."
Said coach Matt Darr: "Being up 3-0, it still felt pretty good. I just told the kids, 'You're up three runs, just play the game right, and you've got a good chance to win.' I don't think it affected us a lot."
Regis Jesuit starter Jacob Thompsen was spectacular, as he has been all postseason. Against the Bruins, Thompsen went 4 2/3 innings, and allowed just four hits. He didn't allow an earned run in 17 2/3 postseason innings.
But just as the game was set to begin the top of the fourth inning, lightning struck within 10 miles — the ensuing delay lasted one hour and 52 minutes.
"My concern was Jacob and whether or not he was going to be able to throw again," Darr said. "We kind of left it up to him to see how he was feeling."
Thompsen, though, had no doubt he was staying in.
"I knew," he said. "Any other day, it might have been difficult, but today it was easy: State championship, adrenaline."
And it gave Regis Jesuit a boost knowing their ace was going to be back on the mound.
"I think mentally, it was big for our kids. Because he's our dude," Darr said. "I think it mattered."
Cherry Creek pulled starter Zach Herrick after the delay, meaning they would need to dip into a bullpen which didn't have a lot of available arms entering the game due to the road they took through the elimination bracket.
And Regis Jesuit came out firing as the delay lifted. Bryce Parsons drew a four-pitch walk, Owen Best singled, and then Craig Kenny followed that with a single to left field which scored both. Two batters later, Ethan O'Donnell crushed a pitch to right center field for a two-run home run. Suddenly, it was 7-0.
"I knew the moment I hit it, it was going to go out," O'Donnell said. "It's great, but it's better for the team. It fires everyone up. It fuels everyone, not just myself."
Said Thompsen: "We were ready to go."
The next inning, Best hit another RBI single to make it 8-0.
The Raiders had stormed through the 5A tournament's first weekend, emerging as the lone unbeaten, then weathered a loss to Mountain Vista on Friday in the double-elimination tournament. But the Raiders were undeterred.
They did have to endure one final comeback attempt from a comeback-prone Cherry Creek squad. That the Bruins even advanced to the final weekend, let a lone the title game, was a bit improbable.
Cherry Creek had rallied for seventh-inning wins in their regional final and in an elimination game in the state tournament's first week. They also rallied from a one-run deficit to win in the Final 4 on Friday, and again on Saturday morning in a 4-1 win over Mountain Vista to reach the title game.
True to form, in the bottom of the fifth, Cherry Creek got on the board when Ben Perla hit an RBI single and Jack Moss drew a bases-loaded walk with two outs. Regis Jesuit turned to Chase Allen on the mound, and he got out of the inning to limit the damage to two runs, and help Regis Jesuit maintain the lead at 8-2.
The Bruins again loaded the bases in the bottom of the sixth, and pushed a run across on a groundout from Shane Lippett to make it 8-3. But Allen again got out of the inning, this time with a chopper to third.
Regis Jesuit brought Alec Willis out with one on in the seventh, and he sealed the victory, setting off a celebration out of the third-base dugout.