And then there were eight.
For the second consecutive year, the Cheyenne Mountain baseball team is in the Class 4A state tournament. The Indians will begin the double-elimination clash Friday at either UCHealth Park (home of the Rocky Mountain Vibes) or the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs.
“I like where we’re at as a team,” said Indians coach Mark Swope. “We run pretty deep in our pitching. I think we’re set up pretty well in a double-elimination tournament.”
The Indians (21-4) are the No. 3 overall seed. They advanced to the Elite Eight with regional victories last Friday over Ponderosa and Roosevelt, both by 7-5 scores.
Cheyenne Mountain scored five runs in the bottom of the fifth inning of both games to win the regional. In game 1, the Indians trailed 3-1 heading into the bottom of the fifth. Cheyenne’s Mountain’s offense was paced by junior Hank Morley (three RBIs). On the mound, juniors Devin Dodson and Grant Mondejar combined to allow just five hits.
In game 2, junior Ryan Berkhoff had the big blow when his two-out double cleared the bases and plated three teammates to give the Indians a 6-5 lead.
“I was really scared at the plate,” Berkhoff said. “It was a pressure situation. I was just trying to make contact the best I could.”
Berkhoff roped a liner into the right-center field gap to the delight of home fans, and his teammates roared with approval.
“That was a ton of relief,” Berkhoff said. “I feel like I have a little more confidence going forward, knowing I did what I did.”
Cheyenne Mountain entered the postseason having lost its final two regular season games to No. 1 overall seed Pueblo West and Pikes Peak Athletic Conference rival Lewis-Palmer.
In 2018, Cheyenne Mountain went into the postseason having lost its final three regular season games.
“We are just as good as any other team,” Berkhoff said.
Should the Indians survive this weekend, they would advance to the state semifinals, scheduled for May 31-June 1 at UCHealth Park and UCCS.
Cheyenne Mountain enters the state tournament hitting .357 as a team. Nine regulars are batting better than .300, led by Aaron Berkhoff (.449, 8 home runs), Michael Ellis (.425) and Mondejar (.424).
Four Indians pitchers have at least three victories, led by Dodson (7-2, 1.78 ERA).
The school is abuzz this week as three team sports compete for state championships. The boys’ lacrosse team played in the 4A state title game on Monday. The girls’ soccer team plays for the 4A state championship Wednesday as a No. 21 seed.
“There are a lot of exciting things happening at Cheyenne Mountain,” Swope said. “Hopefully, we can keep playing another week.”