GREENWOOD VILLAGE — This senior class from Columbine will always be remembered as one of the most-talented in school history.
Starting with a state baseball championship as sophomores to a football title and return trip to the state baseball tourney as juniors, the class achieved many things others only dream of.
Still, when it all came to an end May 3, it was a tough pill to swallow.
Cherry Creek, the No. 1 seed in the 32-team district playoffs, limited No. 16 Columbine to just five hits on the way to a 9-1 victory, earning the unbeaten Bruins a berth in the state tournament.
“It’s very tough to realize that this is our last game at Columbine,” said third baseman/pitcher, Kyler Brady, who along with shortstop Jeff Cicchinelli, first baseman Curtis Cunningham and pitcher/centerfielder Scott Anundsen, starred in both baseball and football. “It was a special group to be a part of. We did a lot of great things here. It would’ve been nice to have gotten back to state, but Creek is a really good team.”
Coach Chuck Gillman said the Bruins’ lineup is perhaps the toughest in the state.
“We haven’t seen anyone like ‘em all year,” Gillman conceded.
Still, the Rebels were in the mix after four innings, trailing just 3-0, but one had the sense that it was just a matter of time before the Bruins’ bats broke through.
An inning later, the explosion came.
Cherry Creek chased Anundsen from the game and tacked four runs up on the scoreboard, turning its three-run lead into a seven-run rout.
Columbine scored its lone run in the sixth. Cicchinelli was hit by a pitch, then stole second and scored on an RBI single by Cunningham.
In the bottom half of the inning, Cicchinelli was forced out of the game with a shoulder injury – an injury he’s battled all the way back to football season. He injured the shoulder sliding into second on the stolen base.
“He’s the type of kid you love to hate, unless he’s on your team,” Gillman said of his shortstop. “The kid’s a warrior. He’s battled through so much. I know it was real hard on him to have to come out of his final game.”
The Rebels’ final game was an appropriate summarization of their season.
“We were banged up early, then we lost some games that hurt us, both in terms of league standings and where we were seeded,” Gillman said. “Being a No. 16-seed, that’s hard to work through.
“I’m proud of the way our kids battled, especially in that first game. It gave the seniors a chance to end their careers on the field instead of with that incident.”
Repackaged Rebels top Fort Collins in opening round
A few new faces made their way into the Rebels’ starting lineup in the team’s opening round game against Fort Collins.
Six players – including several regular starters – were suspended for the game due to making an inappropriate gesture in a team photo earlier in the week. Starting shortstop Cicchinelli was also missing, as he was serving a one-game suspension for being ejected in Columbine’s loss to Dakota Ridge no April 23.
Columbine quickly put the controversy behind them, jumping out to a 4-1 lead after three innings and holding on for a 7-5 victory to advance to the district final.
“It was extra motivation for us,” said Brady, who relieved starter Connor Holzkamp in the sixth inning and earned the save. “We needed to win that game for the seniors so they could end their careers on the field instead of having to sit out.”
Brady executed a pair of perfectly-placed suicide squeeze bunts – one in the third inning, and the second in the sixth that scored Columbine’s final run.
Up 7-2, Columbine appeared to have things well in control, but the No. 17-seed Fort Collins didn’t go away, throwing three runs on the board in the bottom of the sixth to add a bit of tension to the game before Brady closed the door.
Holzkamp, who was suffering from a migraine after the game, largely kept the Lambkins in check, allowing a single run in the third and fourth innings before tiring in the sixth.
“That was a great lift for us,” Brady said. “He was hitting his spots, keeping the ball low and letting his position players do their job.”
Sean New and Brett Becker each had two hits for Columbine.
Columbine 000 001 0 — 1 5 1
Cherry Creek 100 242 x — 9 13 1
Columbine — Blatnik lf-3b 3-0-2-0, Cicchinelli ss 1-1-0-0, Cunningham 1b 3-0-1-1, Anundsen p-lf 3-0-0-0, Spond 2b-ss 3-0-0-0, Hagan rf 3-0-1-0, Brady 3b-p 3-0-0-0, Weibel dh 3-0-0-0, Autenrieth c 1-0-1-0, Tanner 3b 1-0-0-0, Roberts cf 0-0-0-0. Totals: 24-1-5-1.
Cherry Creek — O’Connor 2b 4-1-1-1, Satherlie 3b 3-2-3-0, Shantz ss 4-0-2-1, Mielnicki 1b 3-0-1-2, Olsson lf 2-1-1-0, Shoutta c 3-0-1-0, Phillips cr 0-1-0-0, McCabe rf 3-1-1-1, English dh 2-1-2-3, Sullivan cf 2-0-1-1, Baus ph 0-1-0-0, Blackford p 0-0-0-0. Totals: 26-9-13-9.
E — Blackford, Hagan. DP — Columbine 2. LOB — Columbine 4, Cherry Creek 5. SB — Blatnik, Sullivan, Cicchinelli, Hagan. CS — Phillips, Tanner, Cunningham.
2B — Satherlie 2, Mielnicki, McCabe, Eng- lish 2, O’Connor. 3B — Satherlie.
Batteries — Anundsen, Brady (5) and Autenrieth; Blackford and Shoutta. W — Blackford (7-0). L — Anundsen (1-2). SF — McCabe, Mielnicki. HBP — Shoutta (by Anundsen); Cicchinelli (by Blackford); Olsson (by Brady). WP — Blackford. T — 2:18.