One of the most talented baseball teams to come through Aurora came up just short of winning the Class 5A state championship, but impressed from first pitch to last.
A significant number of players from the Regis Jesuit team that lost to Rocky Mountain by a run in the 5A state championship game found their way onto the 2014 Aurora Sentinel All-City Baseball Team, as selected by the Sentinel in conjunction with voting of city coaches. Grandview — which also lost to the Lobos in the postseason — Overland and Cherokee Trail also have representation among the city’s diamond best.
When he took over as head coach, Matt Darr could hardly believe the talent he had at his disposal with Regis Jesuit. A slew of players had already signed with Division I programs and others committed, which gave the Raiders the look on paper of a state contender. Aside from an opening loss to Arapahoe, Regis Jesuit looked that part the entire season.
For his fourth varsity season, Max George moved from second base to shortstop with the graduation of Brody Weiss and flourished. With a blend of power and speed, George hit a team-best .458 and also topped the Raiders in runs scored (31) and stolen bases (10), while his 33 hits matched teammate Justin Thaxton for a team high as well. His base hits included nine doubles, two triples and three home runs and he knocked in 24 runs.
George couldn’t have had a much better season, as he was named Colorado Gatorade Player of the Year and Continental League Player of the Year and heard his name called by the hometown Colorado Rockies in the sixth round of the June Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft. He passed on his scholarship to Oregon State when he was able to work out a contract with the Rockies for roughly $620,000 — significantly higher than the usual amount offered to players drafted in that spot — and was assigned to Single-A Grand Junction.
Thaxton had an even better season statistically than George in a few categories. The Pacific-bound infielder — who also saw time in the outfield and pitched when needed — finished second in 5A with nine home runs on the season, including three in a single postseason game, and also tied George for the team lead with nine doubles. Thaxton finished with a robust .452 batting average and also tied George for base hits with 33, while his team-leading total of 32 RBI tied him for fourth in all of 5A and he also scored 30 times to boot.
Senior catcher Jack Brett considered himself very lucky to work with so many quality pitchers and the effectiveness of the staff and the rest of the defense helped limit the traffic on the bases in a major way. According to MaxPreps’ statistics, Brett — who committed to Willamette University in Oregon after the season — wasn’t charged with an error in 164 total chances.
That pitching staff was outstanding, even though senior left-hander David Peterson sat on the shelf after suffering a fractured fibula prior to the season. Junior right-hander Brent Schwarz — who verbally committed to Rice — stepped into the lead role on the mound and posted a 7-2 record with a 2.54 ERA in 49 2/3 innings. He pitched to contact with a strong defense behind him, but also did it himself on occasion, including a school record 15 strikeout performance against Westminster in the playoffs.
Peterson missed two months of action, but returned to form in the 24 1/3 innings he logged. The left-hander pitched primarily in relief and posted a 3-0 record with a save and a 1.15 ERA. In his last start of the season, Peterson logged seven innings in a complete game win over Mountain Vista that kept Regis Jesuit alive in the 5A Championship Series. The Oregeon signee and eventual 28th round draft pick of the Boston Red Sox still managed to strike out 40 batters despite his lengthy absence.
In the batting order, Brett provided another left-handed threat and finished third on the team among regulars with a .419 batting average, finished third with 31 total hits and second in both home runs (5) and RBI (30).
While Regis Jesuit had definite star power, there’s no doubt senior Zach Woodruff and sophomore Quin Cotton made key contributions in the outfield.
The versatile Woodruff filled several roles for the Raiders and was especially important as a spark at the bottom of the batting order. He pounded out 23 hits and recorded a .404 batting average from the No. 9 spot and also drove in 16 runs.
Cotton used his blend of power and speed to assert himself in key moments and several of his 19 RBI came in key moments, including a late two-run homer to lift Regis Jesuit over ThunderRidge in a key Continental League contest. Playing in either of the corner outfield spots, Cotton robbed a number of players of hits with his ability to get to track down balls.
Though Overland finished just 6-13 overall, it was competitive just about every time out. The Trailblazers lost four Centennial League games by two runs and also dropping an extra inning non-league contest with Rangeview by a run.
Overland had some significant horses to build around in senior pitcher Dario Villagomez and senior infielder Joe Slocum, who each attempted to set the tone for some of the team’s promising young players.
Villagomez keyed the Trailblazers’ pitching staff for the fourth straight season and the Garden City C.C. (Kansas)-bound lefty ranked seventh in all of 5A with his 1.53 ERA.
In 45 2/3 innings, Villagomez racked up 65 total strikeouts and blew past the Overland school record for career whiffs by 20. He posted a 3-1 record with two complete games, including a three-hit shutout of Grandview with 13 Ks.
Slocum joined Villagomez on the All-Centennial League first team for the second straight season with a big offensive season that saw him lead Centennial League and Aurora hitters with a .523 batting average. Crediting hard work with a SwingAway hitting trainer at his house and the ability to concentrate on every at-bat the same way no matter how much or little success he’d had beforehand, Slocum pounded out 34 base hits — including eight doubles — and finished one shy of the team lead with 19 RBI.
Defensively, Slocum wasn’t totally pleased with his play at shortstop, but is looking forward to working on his game at Otero J.C.
Grandview, which graduated plenty from a team that reached the 5A Final Four in 2013, had a difficult start to the season as new players adjusted to new roles and returned from a tournament in Las Vegas after spring break with a 3-6 record.
Senior right-handed pitcher Tanner Thomas caught fire when the team got back into Centennial League play and the bats also started to awaken, as coach Dean Adams‘ Wolves finished the season 8-4 to become the only other Aurora team besides Regis Jesuit to qualify for the 5A district playoffs.
Thomas, who signed with the University of Utah during the season, gave the Wolves 49 2/3 innings of strong work on the mound. He threw a five-inning no-hitter against Arapahoe in a game with howling winds and finished with a 4-0 record and 2.25 ERA. His 57 strikeouts — against just 18 walks — ranked in the top 10 in 5A.
In his final three prep starts, Thomas was absolutely brilliant, as he allowed just a single run in 19 innings with 24 strikeouts.
Junior infielder Eric Mingus and junior outfielder Keifer Glau each garnered All-Centennial League first team honors as linchpins for the Wolves. Mingus, who took over at shortstop for graduated Jake Thurston, hit a team-best .500 and led the team with 28 hits — including nine for extra bases — and 25 runs scored in addition to 16 RBI.
Glau — a standout football player as well — had an outstanding season with a .429 batting average, finished second on the team in both hits (24) and runs scored (20) along with 17 RBI and a handful of stolen bases.
Cherokee Trail finished an atypical 6-13, but still had plenty of key pieces.
Senior Alex Achtermann — who will join friend fellow pitcher Villagomez at Garden City — made the All-Centennial League first team in a utility role for his variety of contributions to the Cougars. As Cherokee Trail’s top pitcher, the left-hander tossed a team-high 39 2/3 innings and had a 2-4 record with a 3.53 ERA, while he also hit .448 in his 29 at-bats.
Junior Nick Leisge also made the all-league first team as well, as he hit safely in 17 of the Cougars’ 19 games and racked up a sparkling .448 batting average.
Courtney Oakes is Sports Editor of the Aurora Sentinel. Reach him at 303-750-7555 or [email protected] Twitter: @aurorasports. Facebook: Aurora Prep Sentinel
2014 AURORA SENTINEL ALL-CITY BASEBALL TEAM
Pitcher: LHP David Peterson, Regis Jesuit, sr.; RHP Brent Schwarz, Regis Jesuit, jr.; RHP Tanner Thomas, Grandview, sr.; LHP Dario Villagomez, Overland, sr.; Catcher: Jack Brett, Regis Jesuit, sr.; Infield: Max George, Regis Jesuit, sr.; Eric Mingus, Grandview, jr.; Joe Slocum, Overland, sr.; Justin Thaxton, Regis Jesuit, sr.; Outfield: Quin Cotton, Regis Jesuit, soph.; Keifer Glau, Grandview, jr.; Zach Woodruff, Regis Jesuit, sr.; Designated Hitter: Nick Leisge, Cherokee Trail, jr.; Utility: Alex Achtermann, Cherokee Trail, sr.
Pitcher: Zach Heath, Regis Jesuit, sr.; J.R. McDermott, Smoky Hill, jr,; Brian Perales, Eaglecrest, soph.; Morgan Smith, Grandview, jr.; Catcher: Joseph Sanchez, Overland, sr.; Infield: Sean Kennedy, Grandview, sr.; Jake Lorenzini, Eaglecrest, jr.; Matt Schmidt, Regis Jesuit, jr.; Reagan Todd, Regis Jesuit, sr.; Outfield: Casey McBride, Rangeview, sr.; Andrew Picchione, Cherokee Trail, sr.; Jonathan Sanchez, Overland, sr.; Designated Hitter: Vincent Armstrong, Grandview, sr.; Utility: Dillon Joye, Rangeview, sr.
Brooks Adams (INF), Grandview, sr.; Peter Anderson (OF), Eaglecrest, jr.; Eric Ayon (INF), Gateway, jr.; Colton Bennett (INF), Rangeview, sr.; Edgar Castaneda (INF), Gateway, soph.; Ben Chavez (Util), Aurora Central, sr.; Abel Cordova (P), Rangeview, sr.; Anthony Donovan (INF), Regis Jesuit, sr.; Alex Espinoza (P), Aurora Central, sr.; Caesar Estrada (OF), Rangeview, jr.; Jaden Fouse (P), Eaglecrest, sr.; Jesse Granados (INF), Overland, sr.; Spencer Hammond (OF), Eaglecrest, soph.; Brandon Hernandez (C), Eaglecrest, soph.; Hank Hyde (Util), Smoky Hill, sr.; Brandon Lopez (P), Gateway, sr.; Justin Martinez (INF), Smoky Hill, jr.; Jose Mendez (INF), Hinkley, soph.; Adam Puehler (P), Vista PEAK, sr.; Ricky Rodriguez (C), Hinkley, soph.; Erik Salas (C), Overland, fr.; Andy Schwulst (C), Cherokee Trail, sr.; Zach Starcher (C), Grandview, sr.; Colten Thomsen (INF), Vista PEAK, jr.; Alejandro Torres (INF), Eaglecrest, jr.; Brooks Urich (OF), Regis Jesuit, sr.; Paul White (C), Vista PEAK, sr.; Isaiah Young (OF), Vista PEAK, jr.