Chaparral, the No. 2 seeded team in the Class 5A state baseball playoffs, combined shutout pitching with explosive offense to win the District 5 championship May 11 at Eaton Field.
Riley O'Brien hurled a two-hit, seven-inning shutout in the Wolverines' 8-0 win over Denver East. Max Kuhns, Chaparral's starting quarterback during the football season, allowed just two hits in a 10-0 victory over Northglenn in the title game that lasted 4½ innings because of the mercy rule.
O'Brien, a senior left-hander who is bound for Bethune-Cookman, struck out 12 batters including seven in a row during one stretch of the game.
“I really just stuck to my fastball and slider,” said O'Brien. “They just couldn't hit it. I really focused during the week on my running and prep work and that's why I did so well. I was just confident I was going to pitch well.”
East starting pitcher David Leaman-Miller retired the first six Chaparral batters in order, but Keenan Eaton led off the third with a solo home run to spark a four-run rally. Josh Nicol belted a two-run homer in the fifth to stake O'Brien to an 8-0 lead.
“We've played some teams that have thrown slower pitchers and that kind of caught us off-guard a little bit,” explained O'Brien. “After those first two innings I was a little nervous, but when Keenan hit that home run, I knew that was all we really needed.”
Kuhns, a senior who has signed to play baseball at Santa Clara, induced nine ground ball outs and struck out three batters to defeat Northglenn, which had notched a 6-1 win over Legacy to advance to the district title game.
“I thought I pitched pretty well and got my defense involved,” Kuhns said. “I just threw strikes and let them put it in play because we have a great defense and I know they are going to make the plays.”
Chaparral, the Continental League co-champions, sent 13 batters to the plate and left the bases loaded in an eight-run second inning.
Kuhns had a two-run triple during the big second inning and Brett Wallace delivered a two-run single. Wallace wound up with three runs batted in during the game and Zac Guy collected three of the Wolverines' 11 hits.
“We have a stacked lineup and I feel our whole team is stacked with three- and four-hole hitters,” said Kuhns. “I feel we are blessed and can't wait for the next round. We have to work hard to keep playing like we've been playing and hopefully get some more Ws.”
Chaparral (17-4) advances to the double elimination state tournament to be played May 17-18 and May 24-25.
Half of the eight teams are from the Continental League, and that doesn't include co-champion Regis Jesuit, which lost to Chatfield in the District 2 finals.
The Wolverines will play Mountain Vista (13-7) on May 17 in a 12:30 p.m. game at Bishop Machebeuf High School, while last year's state runners-up Legend (14-7) will open against ThunderRidge (16-5) at 10 a.m. at Machebeuf.
During the regular season, Chaparral beat Mountain Vista, 11-3, and Legend edged the Grizzlies, 12-9.
The way the bracket unfolds, the four Continental League teams will play against each other in the first two games.
“Winning district is a great accomplishment, but this team knows there are bigger things left to do,” said Chaparral coach Tony Perischina. “These kids are unbelievable. They play for each other, they take care of each other, and that's a huge thing. You can have a team of great players but it they don't take of each other, then it's really nothing. When they play with the type of spirit they have now, it's awesome.”
In other playoff games May 11, Mountain Vista beat Cherokee Trail, 8-4, and edged Dakota Ridge, 8-6, to capture the District 6 title at Dakota Ridge. Dylan Formby cracked three home runs in the Golden Eagles' two wins, including a game-winning two-run circuit clout in the victory over Dakota Ridge.
Legend traveled to Colorado Springs for the District 5 tournament and the Titans whipped Fairview, 12-0, and allowed only three hits in a 2-0 triumph over Pine Creek.
ThunderRidge hosted the District 8 tourney and the Grizzlies beat Fossil Ridge, 6-1, and toppled Grand Junction, 13-3.
Andrew Jones and Rowdy Sheets combined to limit Fossil Ridge to three hits while Jake Hand went 3-for-4 to spark the ThunderRidge offense. Josh Brown and Josh Newell each had three hits, Brody Westmoreland drove in three runs and Josh Predolich hit a three-run homer in the win over Grand Junction.
Castle View ended its season with an 8-12 record when the Sabercats dropped a 6-3 decision to Cherry Creek in the District 4 tourney. Douglas County (11-9) was eliminated in the District 2 tournament at Regis when the Huskies were shut out 4-0 by Chatfield.
In Class 4A, Valor Christian (14-7) traveled to the District 6 tournament in Delta and left with two shutout triumphs. Daniel Butler pitched a three-hit, seven-inning gem as the Eagles whipped Longmont, 9-0. Butler also had a double, a homer and drove in three runs. Matt Fontneau and Nick Merten combined to pitch a five-inning two-hitter in a 15-0 romp over Delta that saw Valor collect 15 hits. Butler went 2-for-2, scored four runs and had four RBIs. Marco Castilla also was credited with four RBIs.
Valor will play Montrose (19-2) in a 12:30 p.m. game May 17 at Cherokee Trail High School in the first game of the double-elimination bracket to determine a state champion.
Lutheran beat Limon, 6-2, in the Class 2A district semifinals but lost to Denver Christian, 8-2, in the finals. The Lions (14-7) still advanced to the Region 2 semifinals and will play Peyton (16-5) at 10 a.m. May 18 at Niwot High School.