University tops Resurrection Christian to repeat as 3A baseball champion

(Ernie Derrera/CHSAANow.com)

GREELEY — University has featured a wealth of good hitters the past two seasons. These guys lifted the Bulldogs to back-to-back Class 3A baseball titles.

On Saturday, they defeated Resurrection Christian 10-3 in the championship game at Butch Butler Field.

“University has been a very storied high school with baseball and there’s been great team after great team after great team dating back to the 1950’s,” coach Casey Miller said. “We are the first to go back-to-back.”

When Resurrection Christian pinned a rare loss on University in Friday’s semifinals (6-5), opening the door for Lutheran and Rez to play another elimination game Saturday morning, UH responded by swinging the bats well in the title game.

This wasn’t a big surprise. A team that closed with a 27-2 record, University carried a .391 batting average as a group. They recorded 13 hits in the finale.

“We’re pretty grimy one through nine and if one guy is struggling, another picks him up,” Miller said. “We have hero after hero after hero. Anybody can do it, any given time. They just wear down pitchers.”

University was favored again this season, but Resurrection Christian was carrying plenty of momentum. They knocked out Lutheran 5-3 in what amounted to be another semifinal game. Cooper Strong pitched five innings and gave up only four hits and two runs. He struck out four batters.

After Brody Schneider smashed an RBI double and Lutheran took a 2-0 lead on the Cougars in the first, Rez tallied five hits and five runs in the fourth inning. That flipped the game and pushed the program into their first-ever 3A baseball finals. Resurrection Christian won 2A in 2012 and 2014 and this year’s team was on fire.

But, as is often the case in state tournaments, pitching depth played a role. Resurrection Christian started Will Schrotenboer, a talented freshman, in the championship game. He had pitched just over 11 innings this season, but kept his team in the game for awhile.

Colton Widler’s RBI groundout put University on the board first in the opening frame. Resurrection Christian tied the game on a balk in the top of the third. Then, the Bulldogs hitters really came alive.

A 2-RBI triple by Andre Chacon followed with a run scored on a wild pitch in the bottom of the third inning. Alex Martinez connected for an RBI double and freshman River Jackson smashed a 2-RBI double.

“It was for the team,” Jackson said. “We play for the team, play as one. You just have to do it for the person behind you, the person next to you. You have to do it for your brothers.”

University’s scoring binge gave the Bulldogs a 7-1 lead after three innings. But, the challengers continued to grit their teeth. Zach Parrish’s RBI double pulled Rez within 7-2 of University in the fifth.

“They put balls in play and touched us up a little bit,” Miller said. “We haven’t given up 10 hits to very many teams this year. They put barrel to baseball and did that yesterday as well. They did a good job with their hitting approach.”

Nonetheless, University was in control on Saturday. Sophomore Nolan Johnson (.518 batting average), a key cog during both title runs, laced a double in the bottom of the fifth inning that plated two runs. Another run scored on a Rez error and the Bulldogs all but clinched the championship as they opened up a 10-2 advantage.

“I have some friends on that team that I know pretty well and I really like them a lot,” Jackson said. “It feels pretty good to come out on top though.”

University was able to save Kalob Padilla, a senior who pitched all four seasons for the Bulldogs. He entered the game with a 6-0 record and a 1.92 ERA this year. Against Resurrection Christian, Padilla only gave up two runs on seven hits in 4 ⅓ innings. He mostly cooled off a hot Cougar lineup.

“I’m overcome with how proud I am of this group of guys,” Miller said. “Ever since we won it last year, everyone was talking back-to-back. Winning one championship is really, really hard, especially when you’re surrounded by good teams from all around the state.”

Three of the final four teams came from the Patriot League. Eaton was knocked out by Lutheran on Friday.

“We had to bang with them all year,” Miller, in his second year as the University head coach, said. “It compliments our league and Northern Colorado and what we have brewing here. The Patriot is going to be really tough the next couple of years, because there’s a lot of young teams that made noise this year.”

University has now claimed six state titles in baseball. They took out Lamar 21-2 in last year’s final and won championships in 1997, 1992, 1982 (AA), and 1955 (as College High).

“I’ve always taught at University, so I’ve seen what the program is all about,” Miller added. “It’s the attitude and the effort that these guys bring to practice every day and bring to off-season workouts. They grind and they embrace challenges.”