By Craig Harper
For the Courier
Some scoffed when Chatfield, which finished third in the Jeffco League, received the No. 1 overall seed in the 5A baseball playoffs. And their misgivings almost seemed warranted with the Chargers on the brink of bowing out at home in the first round of District 1 play.
But Chatfield, which suffered back-to-back losses to Columbine and Arvada West in late April is nothing if not resilient. The Chargers rallied from a 4-2 deficit with two runs in the bottom of the seventh inning and beat 32nd-seeded Doherty 5-4 on Jake Carstensen’s triple and Matthew Jarecki’s walk-off RBI single in the eighth.
Disburdened, Chatfield erupted for four runs in the bottom of the first of the district title game and made them stand for a 4-2 victory over No. 17 Grand Junction-Central and a repeat trip to this weekend’s final eight. The Chargers (19-2) will open double-elimination play against No. 8 seed Cherry Creek on May 16 at 10 a.m. at All-City Stadium in Denver.
Jarecki was glad the Chargers proved the skeptics wrong.
“Even though we’re the No. 1 seed, I do feel like we’re the underdog,” said the senior, who also contributed a double that led to the two-run seventh in the first game. “I think we all like being the underdog because that gives us something to prove.”
Jarecki was handcuffed in the second game, but, typically, the Chargers turned to others. Sean O’Dell, Mason Brown and Nate Chamberlain at the top of the order had six of their team’s 10 hits. In the opener, Carstensen and Jarecki, who hit eighth and ninth, had three of the six hits.
Brown followed O’Dell’s leadoff single in the second game with a two-run home run. Chamberlain singled and eventually scored on two wild pitches, and Blake Moore plated the final run with a base hit following a walk and a wild pitch.
“That’s the good thing about these guys: every game it’s somebody different,” said first-year coach Brandon Stone, who inherited a senior-dominated team but one not necessarily deep in varsity-level experience. “Everybody contributes, everybody plays a role and a part in our success.”
The Chargers got solid starting pitching from co-No. 1 starters Chamberlain and Travis Schnoor, and O’Dell closed the final inning of both games to get a win and save. Schnoor gave up two runs on four hits and struck out nine Spartans in four innings, and Chamberlain allowed two runs on six hits while shutting down Central’s Trey Garcia, who belted two homers in a 9-3 win over Pine Creek in the first round. Garcia grounded into a double play with runners on first and second and no outs in the third. And in the fifth, after the Warriors scored their only two runs and had runners on second and third with two outs, Chamberlain induced an infield groundout.
“Nick gave us every opportunity to win (the second) game,” Stone said. “He threw a heck of a game and Sean came in and closed it down. (O’Dell’s) a back-end guy. He’s one of those kids who loves that moment, and we love having him in that role.”
Chamberlain almost didn’t get a chance to pitch, but, he said, referring to the first game, “When we’re down late in games we always tend to buckle down because we don’t want to lose. We just find ways to get on. I think being the No. 1 seed put a little more pressure on us, but we came out and played a good second game, and it paid off.”