Palmer Ridge, Lewis-Palmer and The Classical Academy will be among the 32 baseball teams playing in Class 4A regionals this weekend. The Colorado High School Activities Association will release the brackets Wednesday.
The winner of each of the eight four-team regionals advances to the state tournament, which is scheduled to begin May 24. All three Tri-Lakes area teams will be on the road for regionals.
“We feel pretty good about being on the road,” said Palmer Ridge second-year coach Jason Heidel, whose team is 10-1 away from home this spring (5-4 at home). “The only game we lost on the road was at Cheyenne Mountain. And they’re pretty good, as usual.”
Cheyenne Mountain won the Pikes Peak Athletic Conference, taking the title away from Palmer Ridge. Palmer Ridge hosted a regional last spring, but lost in the championship game.
The Bears are strong in several areas, but especially in the pitching department. Senior right-hander Charlie Deeds is 4-3 with a 1.73 ERA. He has 100 strikeouts and 20 walks in 52 2/3 innings.
Deeds’ .605 batting average is also tops among all PPAC players. Deeds will play for the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs next season.
“Sometimes he has to carry the team on his back, and Charlie does a good job,” Heidel said.
Other top Palmer Ridge players are Jack Flynn (.595, 8 extra-base hits, 14 RBIs), Jack Wotta (.375, 10 XBH, 16 RBIs) and Bridger Havens (.333, 9 XBH, 18 RBIs).
Lewis-Palmer (8-4 on the road) is also loaded with talent. The Rangers have two of the top hitters in the PPAC in seniors Evan Walsh (.507, 14 XBH, 23 RBIs) and Jason Shuger (.441, 14 XBH, 33 RBIs).
Shuger, an Air Force Academy recruit who tossed two no-hitters this season, is also the Rangers’ top pitcher (4-3, 2.87). But the right-hander has only pitched in one game (one inning against Palmer Ridge on May 3) since April 6 when he sustained an arm injury.
In Shuger’s absence, Joe Schedlbauer, Johnny Houck and Chris Rhoades have stepped in to help the Rangers remain a formidable force.
“Next man up,” said Lewis-Palmer coach Brett Lester. “That’s the attitude we have here. We have guys who can step in and do the job.”
Lester added that playing in the tough PPAC helps his team prepare for the postseason.
“There’s no question our league helps get us ready for the playoffs,” he said. “When you’re playing against Cheyenne Mountain, Palmer Ridge, Air Academy and Discovery Canyon, you have to raise your game to another level.”
TCA is riding high after winning its first-ever Metro League championship. The Titans were 7-0 in conference action.
“We have to keep our guys motivated,” said Titans’ coach Bart Jennings. “Our boys know if they we put our best game forward, we can play with anybody.”
The Titans are 11-4 away from home this spring. They are led by Etan Boyles (.531, 10 XBH, 15 RBIs), Noah Lasecki (.393, 3 homers, 17 RBIs), Matt Dole (.368, 11 XBH), (Hayden Cooper (.367, 16 RBIs), Kobe Katayama (.365) and Alex Moore (.333, 21 RBIs).
UCHealth Park will be the home of the 4A state championship tournament, May 24-25 and May 31-June 1.
The tournament previously was held in the Denver area, but the Colorado High School Activities Association was looking at a different community as a host after Metro State, one of two sites in the past — along with All-Star Park in Lakewood, had a conflict and pulled out of contention.
Mountain Lion Park at UCCS will host the first weekend, with the Rocky Mountain Vibes’ home serving as the exclusive home on the final weekend.