Though again just short of a state championship, Aurora’s 2015 prep baseball season held plenty of surprises and successes.
Two teams — Grandview and Regis Jesuit — both had struggles during the regular season, but beat the odds to earn their way into the eight-team Class 5A Baseball Championship Series.
With a talented young group, Cherokee Trail set the tone for what could be an outstanding 2016 season, and Smoky Hill played a major factor in the Centennial League race and knocked 2014 state champion Rocky Mountain out of the playoffs.
Players from those four squads make up the majority of the 2015 Aurora Sentinel All-City Baseball Team, as selected by the Sentinel in conjunction with balloting of city coaches.
Grandview came into the season full of optimism, but found itself at 7-6 in the middle of the season and in a precarious spot with its postseason hopes. Coach Dean Adams told the team he planned to retire after 15 years at the helm, which sparked the Wolves.
Seeded 25th in the 32-team 5A district field, Grandview knocked off higher-seeded teams right and left until an eliminating loss to Mountain Vista in the semifinals.
Senior Eric Mingus dazzled defensively at shortstop and provided a dangerous bat in the order with a team-high .459 batting average. Mingus, who is headed to Iowa Western Community College, reached base at a .531 clip, scored 25 runs and drove in 18 while choking off plenty of rallies with his glove.
Sparkplug Keifer Glau helped Grandview’s baseball and football teams make the 5A semifinals in his senior season, and the University of Northern Colorado gave him the chance to continue with both sports at the Division I level.
In his final prep baseball season, Glau set the table at the top of the order with a .398 average, stole 13 bases and scored a team-high 29 runs (2nd in the league) while playing aggressively in center field.
Another football-baseball player, senior Ben Marshall, joins Glau in the All-City outfield. He finished behind only Mingus and Glau in batting average on the team (.385), pounded out 30 base hits to go with 17 RBI and came up one short of stealing double-digit bases.
Aurora coaches liked the poise of Grandview junior right-hander Grant Schroeder on the mound.
Though he had a few struggles with control, the first team All-Centennial League selection rolled when he got locked in. Schroeder led Grandview’s staff with three wins and a 3.24 ERA while he struck out 47 batters in 54 innings. He tossed 18 innings in the postseason and allowed just seven earned runs.
Regis Jesuit suffered massive graduation from its 5A runner-up team from 2014, but coach Matt Darr’s Raiders still managed to get back to the 5A Championship Series despite a final record of 12-13.
The Raiders rode the contributions of its major returning players such as senior pitcher Brent Schwarz and junior outfielder Quin Cotton, plus the all-around contributions of junior Travis Marr. All three were selected to play in the Colorado Rockies Futures Game.
Though the Raiders had multiple effective arms, Schwarz carried the ace role over from last year. The right-hander, who signed with Rice University and was later drafted by the Colorado Rockies, finished with an outstanding 1.45 ERA and struck out 65 batters in 52 innings. A few shaky outings by his defense limited Schwarz’s won-loss record to 3-4.
Cotton picked up a lot of the slack left by graduation, as he finished with a team-high .457 batting average. His 37 hits included 15 for extra bases (6 doubles, 5 triples and 4 home runs). Cotton terrorized the opposition in the postseason, as he finished 12-for-18 (.667) with all four of his homers and eight RBI.
As a regular on the infield, Marr finished second on the team with a .382 average, while he both scored and drove in double-digit runs. On top of that, he logged the second-most innings of any Regis Jesuit pitcher (38) and finished 2-1 with a 3.68 ERA.
Helping all the pitchers was the presence of senior catcher Travis Doerr, a sniper from behind the plate with his arm and a .311 hitter.
Cherokee Trail had an outstanding season with a group built on team chemistry and the ability to win in a variety of ways. Coach Allan Dyer’s Cougars even had an outside shot at finishing atop the Centennial League standings until a couple of late losses in the regular season.
Sophomore Conner Nantkes led an effective Cherokee Trail pitching staff that kept the team in just about every game. The left-hander made seven starts and won five of them, posting a 5-0 record with a 2.23 ERA. Nantkes had a big complete game win over Grandview late in the season and also went the distance in a district playoff win over ThunderRidge.
At designated hitter, sophomore Nick Perez tore up opposition pitching to the tune of a .485 batting average, which ranked second in all of the Centennial League. He pounded out 32 hits — including 10 doubles — drove in 17 runs and scored 21 times.
Perez also did what he was asked, as he traded his powerful swing for a suicide squeeze bunt that lifted Cherokee Trail to victory over Arapahoe.
Junior Ryan Sullivan led Aurora players in home runs with five, which he hit in a torrid four-game span in April during a key stretch for the Cougars. In that binge, Sullivan went 8-for-13 with five home runs and drove in 16 runs. He finished the season with 21 RBI and hit .407, ranking in the top 10 in the Centennial League.
Smoky Hill’s J.R. McDermott put together the finest season on the mound for an Aurora pitcher this season. The Colorado Mesa University signee finished second in the Centennial League with six wins and also notched a save.
The Buffaloes were clearly a different team with McDermott on the mound, one capable of upsetting 2014 5A state champion Rocky Mountain in the district playoffs as they did to send a ripple through the postseason.
McDermott trusted his defense to make plays, but also recorded 98 outs in 60 innings via strikeout and finished with eight games with 10 or more strikeouts. He finished with a sparkling 2.10 ERA. With the bat, McDermott led the team in hits with 23 and homered twice.
Martinez scuffled a bit through the season with the bat, but finished on an absolute tear down the stretch. He homered in three straight games, the final two of the regular season against Cherokee Trail and in the district opener against Rocky Mountain, and drove in a run in each of the Buffs’ last six games, during which they went 4-2.
Martinez, who is headed to San Jacinto J.C., led the team in RBI (23), home runs (4) and runs (14) and hit .345.
Eaglecrest’s Jake Lorenzini started for a fourth season on varsity and earned All-Centennial League first team honors in his final campaign.
Lorenzini hit a team-best .400, tied for the team-high with 20 hits — seven for extra bases — and steadied the Raptors’ infield defense at shortstop. He is headed to West Hills College in California, the same school where his brother Braxton got drafted out of by the San Diego Padres.
Courtney Oakes is Sports Editor of the Aurora Sentinel. Reach him at 303-750-7555 or [email protected] Twitter: @aurorasports. FB: Aurora Prep Sentinel
2015 AURORA SENTINEL ALL-CITY BASEBALL TEAM
FIRST TEAM — Pitchers: JR McDermott, Smoky Hill, sr.; Conner Nantkes, Cherokee Trail, soph.; Brent Schwarz, Regis Jesuit, sr.; Grant Schroeder, Grandview, jr.; Catcher: Trevor Doerr, Regis Jesuit, sr.; Infield: Jake Lorenzini, Eaglecrest, sr.; Justin Martinez, Smoky Hill, sr.; Eric Mingus, Grandview, sr.; Ryan Sullivan, Cherokee Trail, jr.; Outfield: Quin Cotton, Regis Jesuit, jr.; Keifer Glau, Grandview, sr.; Ben Marshall, Grandview, sr.; Utility: Travis Marr, Regis Jesuit, jr.; Designated Hitter: Nick Perez, Cherokee Trail, soph.
SECOND TEAM — Pitchers: Jerome Bohannon, Cherokee Trail, jr.; Tommy Johnson, Eaglecrest, sr.; Nick Morris, Grandview, jr.; Connor Sinks, Regis Jesuit, sr.; Catcher: Brandon Hernandez, Eaglecrest, jr.; Infield: Michael Morris, Cherokee Trail, soph.; Matt Schmidt, Regis Jesuit, sr.; Josh Schumacher, Rangeview, jr.; Tyler Smith, Grandview, jr.; Outfield: Thomas Jahde, Regis Jesuit, sr.; Matt Meraz, Cherokee Trail, jr.; Iomar Rodriguez, Vista PEAK, sr.; Utility: Cesar Estrada, Rangeview, sr.; Designated Hitter: Evan Richards, Smoky Hill, jr.
HONORABLE MENTION — Peter Anderson, Eaglecrest, sr. (outfield); Eric Ayon, Gateway, sr. (catcher); Kody Bitterman, Eaglecrest, sr. (outfield); Ryan Burke, Rangeview, sr. (catcher); Edgar Casteneda, Rangeview, jr. (infield); Edwin Castro, Gateway, sr. (designated hitter); Fabian Chavez, Gateway, sr. (infield); Josh Escalante, Gateway, sr. (utility); Coley Hakes, Grandview, sr. (pitcher); Spencer Hammond, Eaglecrest, jr. (utility); Tim Keohane, Smoky Hill, sr. (infield); Ryan Kim, Smoky Hill, sr. (infield); Nick Leisge, Cherokee Trail, sr. (utility); Jose Mendez, Hinkley, jr. (infield); Tyler O’Dorisio, Grandview, sr. (infield); Austin Prince, Gateway, jr. (pitcher/utility); Colten Thomsen, Vista PEAK, sr. (pitcher/infield/utility); Arturo Valenzuela, Vista PEAK, fr. (infield); Paddy Walsh, Smoky Hill, soph. (pitcher); Kevin Zapanta, Overland, fr. (utility)