Baseball: Cherokee Trail holds off Cherry Creek, opens Class 5A Championship Series 3-0

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Dakota Ridge junior Dante Tamez catches the ball as Cherokee Trail High School senior Ryan Sullivan slides into second on Friday May 20, 2016 at All-City Field. Photo by Gabriel Christus/Aurora Sentinel
Cherokee Trail’s Ryan Sullivan slides into second base as Dakota Ridge junior Dante Tamez waits for the ball during the Cougars’ 7-2 win in a 2016 Class 5A Baseball Championship Series game on May 20, 2016, at All-City Field in Denver. Cherokee Trail opened the Championship Series 3-0. (Photo by Gabriel Christus/Aurora Sentinel)

DENVER | It’s been five years since the Cherokee Trail baseball team has been to the Class 5A Championship Series, but the Cougars certainly know what to do when they get there.

Coach Allan Dyer’s Cherokee Trail team won all three of its games on the first weekend of the double-elimination tournament — capped by a 10-8 win over Centennial League rival Cherry Creek on May 21 at All-City Field — to take the driver’s seat in the pursuit of the 5A state championship.

Senior Keven MacKintosh — working outside of his usual role as the team’s closer — pitched six solid innings and Johnathon Dornan earned the save by finishing off a wild seventh inning that needed a combined three pitchers to secure Cherokee Trail’s victory.

“We just needed to throw a strike,” Dyer said of the final inning. “Creek is never going to go quietly. We were able to work our way out of it eventually. Before that, Kevin welcomed the challenge to start and he did a great job.”

on Friday May 20, 2016 at All-City Field. Photo by Gabriel Christus/Aurora Sentinel
Cherokee Trail senior Jerome Bohannon delivers a pitch during the Cougars’ 7-2 win over Dakota Ridge in a Class 5A Baseball Championship Series win on May 20, 2016. (Photo by Gabriel Christus/Aurora Sentinel)

Finishing the weekend undefeated — after wins over Rocky Mountain and Dakota Ridge on Friday — puts the Cougars in prime position to win the program’s first 5A state championship and second overall, matching the 4A state title in 2007.

Regardless of the result of its noon game against Mullen on May 27 at All-City Field, Cherokee Trail will be in the state championship game at 10 a.m. May 28. Another game would be necessary if the Cougars have no losses going into the game.

The undefeated position going into the final weekend doesn’t always mean a state title — Chatfield lost to Rock Canyon last season in the state championship game after opening 3-0 — especially since the remaining three teams (which also includes Cherry Creek and Rocky Mountain, which play an elimination game at 2:30 p.m. May 27) will be fighting to stay alive.

“I think everything is in front of our guys, but we’ve told them that four teams are left that can win this thing,” Dyer said. “We have to be able to match the intensity. Those guys are all dangerous and their backs are against the wall.”

Dyer’s biggest decision is how he’ll play his pitching rotation, especially how and when to use his two left-handed aces, senior Jerome Bohannon and junior Conner Nantkes.

Both earned wins with quality efforts in the first two Championship Series games, as Bohannon tossed 5 2/3 innings and allowed just two runs in a 7-2 win over Dakota Ridge and Nantkes followed with a complete game, two-hit shutout of Rocky Mountain in a 7-0 victory.

“I’ve reached out to some guys who have been in this same position to figure out how we set up the rotation,” Dyer said. “There are so many scenarios.”

Cherokee Trail’s offense performed well in all of its games, as the Cougars’ produced at least nine hits in every contest and pounded out 13 against Cherry Creek.

Senior first baseman Ryan Sullivan racked up seven hits over the three games, as did Nantkes, while No. 8 hitter John-Michael Osley had two extra-base hits and drove in four runs over the same span.

Bohannon homered against both Dakota Ridge and Cherry Creek and drove in a combined five runs in the two games.

“We had a couple of baserunning mistakes, but we just have that ability that once we get going, everybody feeds off one another,” Dyer said. “We’re pretty strong as a group 1-9. Our No. 8 hitter John-Michael Osley really came through for us and our big guys did what they have been doing all year.

“Again, we’ve got to find a way to continue it for a couple more games.”

Aurora’s other qualifier for the 5A Championship Series, Grandview, won its first game against Ralston Valley on May 20, but the Wolves were eliminated with a pair of losses on May 21. Mullen edged Grandview 7-6 in an elimination game.

Full 5A Championship Series results, here.

Courtney Oakes is Aurora Sentinel Sports Editor. Reach him at 303-750-7555 or [email protected] Twitter: @aurorasports. FB: Aurora Prep Sentinel

2016 CLASS 5A BASEBALL CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES

May 21

CHEROKEE TRAIL 10, CHERRY CREEK 8

Score by innings (r-h-e):

Cherry Creek     300 000 5 —  8   8   3

Cherokee Trail  226 000 x — 10  13  0

WP — Cherokee Trail: Keven MacKintosh (6 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 3 BB, 6 K). Cherokee Trail hitting: Jerome Bohannon 2-3, 2B, HR, 3 RBI, 2 runs; Eric Cox 2-3, 2B, RBI, run; Ryan Sullivan 2-4, 2 RBI; John-Michael Osley 2-4, 2B, RBI, run; Conner Nantkes 2-3, run; Nick Perez 2-4, 2 2B, RBI; Michael Morris 1-3 2B, run

May 20

CHEROKEE TRAIL 7, DAKOTA RIDGE 2

Score by innings (r-h-e):

Cherokee Trail  012 010 3 —  7  12  1

Dakota Ridge     110 000 0 — 2   3  4

WP — Cherokee Trail: Jerome Bohannon (5 2/3 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 5 BB, 7 K). Cherokee Trail hitting: Jerome Bohannon 2-3, HR, 2 RBI, run; Ryan Sullivan 3-5, 2 2B, 2 RBI; Conner Nantkes 2-4, run; Nick Perez 2-5, RBI, run; Matt Meraz 1-2, RBI, run; John-Michael Osley 1-3, 3B, run; Michael Morris 1-4, 2B, run; Travis Lynch 1-4; Eric Cox 0-4, run

CHEROKEE TRAIL 7, ROCKY MOUNTAIN 0

Score by innings (r-h-e):

Cherokee Trail     000  331 0 — 7  9  1

Rocky Mountain  000 000 0 — 0  2  4

WP — Cherokee Trail: Conner Nantkes (7 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 3 BB, 6 K). Cherokee Trail hitting: Conner Nantkes 3-4, 2 2B, RBI; John-Michael Osley 0-2, 3 RBI; Matt Meraz 2-3, RBI, run; Ryan Sullivan 2-3, run; Michael Morris 1-2, RBI, 2 runs; Eric Cox 1-4, run; Nick Perez 1-4