Denver Christian holds off Limon from repeating as 2A baseball champions

PUEBLO – Brayden Epperhart’s final prep baseball game was one for the memory books.

The senior fired 5 2/3 innings of one-run ball and had an RBI bunt, helping Denver Christian earn a 2-1 victory over Limon on Saturday for its second straight Class 2A state championship at Colorado State University’s Rawlings Field. Pueblo.

“I didn’t get much sleep (Friday night), I’ll be honest,” the 6-foot-4, 180-pound righthander said. “I came in thinking we’ve been here before. This is nothing new. Just trust the Lord and make sure everyone works in unison. The only way we can win a baseball game is if we all work together.

“This feels pretty good. I give all honor and glory to the Lord. It’s a great legacy to leave at a great school. It’s a great way to go out.”

This is Denver Christian’s fourth state baseball crown in school history, joining the crowns he captured in 1996, 2013 and 2023. DC, which defeated Limon 5-3 to win 2A state in 2023, finished the season with a 24-4 record. .

Limon (28-2) was playing in its fourth straight 2A title game – winning state in 2021 and 2022.

The Badgers would have had to beat Denver Christian twice to clinch the 2A state championship, as Limon lost 5-1 to Lyon in the first weekend of the state tournament and came back through the consolation bracket to finish with a 4-2 record in duals. -elimination tournament.

This season, Limon defeated Denver Christian 8-6 on March 23.

“This year has been an absolute struggle,” Denver Christian coach Sam Jones said. “The first one is fun, you get the monkey off your back, and this one was a completely different animal. I’m so proud of these guys and I love them so much. I am so blessed to be their coach and I am so grateful for the opportunity God has given me to be their coach and lead this school and this program, all glory to Jesus Christ. It’s just a privilege to coach these young men and coach alongside these great assistant coaches who do an excellent job every day.”

The game turned into a great pitching battle between Epperhart and Limon star athlete Jordan Rockwell, with the game remaining scoreless for five innings.

That set the tone for a drama-filled sixth inning.

With one out at the top of the frame, Mason Reilly registered an infield hit, beating Limon shortstop Cale Bennett’s throw to the bag. Asher Hawes then singled up the middle, allowing Reilly to race to third and Hawes to move to second on the throw to third.

Brayden Epperhart came up and he hit a slow roller to Rockwell. Rockwell picked up the ball and threw to catcher Trey Smith, but Reilly slid in safely.

“Our philosophy in this program is to find ways to run the manufacturer and I’m a big believer in small ball,” Jones said. “I think that’s the way the game should be played and Brayden Epperhart did a great job of executing that well and Mason did a great job of getting in there and diving home. These are things we practice every day. They get so tired of practicing flags, but it shows up in big moments like this and you never know when the little things are going to translate into those big moments there.

Patrick Elson then stepped up to the plate and the junior, who struck out in his two previous at-bats, was given picks by Coach Jones – bunt away.

Elson selected the second option and responded by cracking a single up the middle to score Hawes and give DC a 2-1 lead.

“This feels great,” Elson said. “I went there expecting Coach (Jones) to trust me to bunt and then he gave me that option and put that trust in me and asked me if I wanted to swing the bat. I told him I did and there’s just no more satisfying feeling than getting that goal and scoring for the team and having all my brothers behind me cheering me on.

Limon countered in the bottom of the sixth.

Keon Bandy walked with one out, then Lance Beedy, the next batter, doubled over the head of left fielder Nolan Epperhart, putting Bandy on the ground. However, Epperhart, a sophomore, and Brayden’s younger brother were able to get the ball back in and Beedy was tagged out on third down.

With a small 2-1 lead, Brayden walked next batter Brody Scherrer. That brought Cale Bennett onto the field and Coach Jones was called up for relief pitcher Reilly.

Reilly came through by striking out Bennett.

Limon had one last chance in the bottom of the seventh to tie or win the game, but Reilly again slammed the door. The junior struck out the strikeout to secure DC’s title.