A season’s worth of work landed Air Academy in the top spot when seeding was announced for the 4A baseball postseason Wednesday.
Now comes the hard part.
“You want to be there, your kids want to be there, but then you actually get there,” Kadets coach Bernie Moncallo said, referring to pressure of carrying the bracket’s largest target. “That’s when you go, ‘Uh-oh.’”
If recent history is any indication, Air Academy (17-2) is in great position. This is the fifth time this school year that a Colorado Springs-area team has drawn a No. 1 seed in the postseason. The first three – Cheyenne Mountain in volleyball, Lewis-Palmer in boys’ basketball and Air Academy in girls’ basketball – each went on to a state championship. The other, Cheyenne Mountain girls’ soccer, posted a 10-0 first-round victory Tuesday.
Nine area teams were included in the 32-team field. Cheyenne Mountain, seeded fourth, will also host a four-team district Saturday. Everyone else will travel, though Discovery Canyon doesn’t have to go far as it was included in Air Academy’s district as the No. 16 seed.
Having the Thunder in his bracket was somewhat unnerving for Moncallo, whose team needed a late grand slam to secure an 11-8 victory over Discovery Canyon in the 4A Metro crossover semifinals.
“It’s not a lot of fun when you’re playing a team that is from your league and you have a win against them, so they have motivation,” said Moncallo, whose Kadets open against No. 32 Silver Creek. “There’s a lot more pressure on us. But if you’re No. 1, that's what comes with it.”
The 4A Metro as a whole was shown significant respect in the seeding. Last year, Air Academy had just one loss against Colorado competition but it came in the 4A Metro finals and as a result it was sent to a district in Durango. This year the league’s No. 2 team, defending state champion Cheyenne Mountain, can play on its own field.
“Traditionally, you hear, Denver, Denver, Denver, Denver, but two of the last three years Cheyenne Mountain has won the state championship and last year four of the top eight were from south of Denver (Air Academy, Cheyenne Mountain, Palmer Ridge and Pueblo West),” Moncallo said. “I think we’re finally getting some recognition.”
A quick glance at the bracket reveals several upset opportunities for area teams. No. 30 Widefield will likely throw 6-foot-6 Sean Johnson in its opener at No. 3 D’Evelyn. He’s the type of pitcher who can be difficult in a one-game situation and makes the Gladiators dangerous after they snuck into the playoffs by beating Woodland Park in the season’s last day.
No. 31 Palmer Ridge and No. 18 Falcon are in the same district at No. 2 Broomfield and either could emerge from there based on flashes throughout the season.
Other area teams in the field are No. 12 Canon City, No. 24 Lewis-Palmer and No. 27 Coronado.
In 3A, Tri-Peaks champion Florence is seeded fifth and is the only area team to host. No. 16 TCA travels to a district hosted by No. 1 Faith Christian and No. 27 St. Mary’s is at No. 6 Brush.