LAKEWOOD | A harsh reality faced Tommy Munch as he stood in the on deck circle at All-Star Park Friday afternoon with his team down a run and down to its last strike.

A year earlier, the Cherokee Trail senior was in the exact same spot — even down to the same score — and he watched his team’s season came to an agonizing end a step short of making the final of the Class 5A Baseball Championship Series.

But this is a different season and this time Munch got a chance to hit (thanks to a walk drawn by fellow senior Bowen Tabola) and he made a difference with his chance.

Munch rifled a single into center field to bring in sophomore Akoi Burton with the tying run and force extra innings and junior Johnny Robledo tripled in senior Zach Garcia for what turned out to be in the winning run in a dramatic 10-9 victory over Rock Canyon. The win sent the Cougars on to a Saturday matchup with Valor Christian for the 5A state championship.

“It was the same scenario, same score against Legacy last year and I was on deck when we lost,” Munch said. “I was so scared, I was like ‘please do not end (with) me on deck.’ But Bowen has been a dog all year, he got the walk and let me make a play.

“That was such an amazing moment. That right there is why you play the game.”

Cherokee Trail used its top two pitchers — junior Logan Reid and sophomore Carter Wilcox — to pick up victories Friday over Regis Jesuit and Rock Canyon, while sophomore Ethin Woltz got the win against the Jaguars with 3 2/3 innings of strong relief.

That creates a potential all-hands-on deck situation for the Cougars against Valor Christian, which must be beaten twice as the 15th-seeded Eagles sit at 3-0 in the tournament. The teams will play at 10 a.m. and again at 12:30 p.m. if Cherokee Trail wins the first contest.

But the mere fact that the Cougars survived the day with their backs against the wall and with two one-run victories over two teams equally as hungry to advance.

“There’s something about having that playoff experience,” Tabola said. “Last year, it was most of our first times. It’s a different atmosphere, you look up and see hundreds of people watching and it can be a lot. But this year, we show up and it’s almost like second nature.”

That experience helped Cherokee Trail grit through an opening victory over Regis Jesuit — which included a complete game shutout thrown by sophomore Carter Wilcox and a deciding solo home run from senior Charlie Boyd — and it also helped the Cougars get past Rock Canyon, which several players described as a “dragon” on their backs.

The Jaguars — coached by Allan Dyer, who led Cherokee Trail to two state championships before he departed for Rock Canyon — beat Cherokee Trail 8-0 during the regular season and 7-2 on the opening weekend of the Championship Series, while they came roaring back from an early six-run deficit to needing just one out to advance.

But this time, it was the Cougars who came through in the clutch.

Junior shortstop Braedan Reichert finished 4-for-5 on the day and drove in four runs, including two on a double in the sixth inning to make it an 8-8 game. The aforementioned Munch (who had three hits in four at-bats) came through in the seventh inning, while it was Robledo’s time in the eighth.

Garcia drew a walk with two outs against Rock Canyon’s fifth pitcher of the game, Austin Bowker, and on a 1-1 count, Robledo reached out and served a ball just over the infield that touched down and with a little spring from the turf outfield, got to the fence. Garcia scored with a slide and Robledo made it to third.

“I was really just looking to put a barrel on one,” Robledo said. “My AB before that, I got one just barely off the end and it got through and I was like this next one I was going to sit back and see if there is something I could drive. It worked. I was just trying to pass the baton to the next guy.”

DiGiorgio could hardly find words to describe his team’s clutch performance.

“They didn’t give up and just kept fighting,” he said. “Having a few guys come through in big moments — wish we could have done it earlier in the game — but it was just unreal.”

Courtney Oakes is Sentinel Colorado Sports Editor. Reach him at sports@sentinelcolorado.com. Twitter: @aurorasports. IG: Sentinel Prep Sports

2023 CLASS 5A BASEBALL CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES (SEMIFINALS)

June 2 at All-Star Park

(25) CHEROKEE TRAIL 10, (5) ROCK CANYON 9 (8 inn.)

Score by innings:

Cherokee Trail 420 002 11 — 10

Rock Canyon 013 311 00 — 9

CHEROKEE TRAIL (ab-h-r-rbi)

Akoi Burton lf 5-2-1-0, Bowen Tabola c 2-1-1-0, Tommy Munch 1b 4-2-3-2, Braedan Reichert ss 5-1-4-4, Charlie Boyd 2b 4-1-1-1, Brody Ceyrolles 3b 5-0-1-0, Zach Garcia dh 3-1-1-1, Johnny Robledo cf 4-0-2-1, Colton Gray rf 5-1-1-0, Randy Eldredge pr 0-1-0-0. Totals 37-10-15-9. Pitching (ip-h-r-er-bb-so): Logan Reid (4 1/3-9-8-8-2-0), Ethin Woltz (W, 3 2/3-3-1-1-1-1)

ROCK CANYON (ab-h-r-rbi)

Eric Hagner 2b 4-2-2-0, Chase Jaworsky ss 3-1-0-1, JT Shank 1b 5-1-2-3, Sean Barta p 3-1-1-3, Garrett Triplett rf 3-0-0-0, Austin Bowker cf-p 3-2-1-0, Carson Krell c 4-0-2-1, Adam Smith 3b 4-1-3-1, Matthew Shipley lf 4-1-1-0. Totals 33-9-12-9. Pitching (ip-h-r-er-bb-so): Sean Barta (1 2/3-5-6-3-2-3), Hunter Allen (3 2/3-5-2-2-2-1), Will Garduno (0-2-0-0-1-0), Chase Goode (1 2/3-2-1-1-1), Austin Bowker (L, 1-1-1-1-1-2)

2B — Cherokee Trail: Akoi Burton, Braedan Reichert. Rock Canyon: Carson Krell. 3B — Cherokee Trail: Johnny Robledo. Rock Canyon: JT Shank. HR — Rock Canyon: Sean Barta (2 on in 3rd inning), JT Shank (1 on in 4th inning)

Courtney Oakes is sports Editor and photographer with Sentinel Colorado. A Denver East High School alum. He came to the Sentinel in 2001 and since then has received a number of professional awards from...

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *