May 30, 2024

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Cheyenne Mountain cherishes the journey in 4A championship game loss to Ponderosa | High School Sports

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Cheyenne Mountain coach Mark Swope can’t help but think back to midseason, when, after an excellent start, his Red-Tailed Hawks lost five games in a seven-game stretch.

At that moment, he said, the season could have gone either way. Cheyenne Mountain could have continued not playing to its potential and losing games, or, the Hawks could work harder, and turn things around.

They chose the second option.

“We had to reevaluate what our goals looked like,” Swope said. “But you know what? We did come together. We put the pieces of the puzzle together. The kids fought through that adversity and ended up in a pretty good spot.”

That spot was the 4A state title game on Saturday at UCHealth Park. But the Red-Tailed Hawks couldn’t complete the final step, falling to Ponderosa 11-1 in five innings, as the Mustangs won their second straight title. After the game, Swope made a point to remind his players of the way they turned the season around.

“I told them to keep their chin up, because we had a fantastic year,” Swope said.

The Hawks knew they’d have their work cut out for them against Ponderosa, a team they faced once before in the postseason. They lost that matchup 13-8, and embarked on a path to the championship where one more loss would have sent them home.

Ponderosa, meanwhile, cruised through their opponents. The Mustangs topped Northfield 14-2, Erie 19-0 and D’Evelyn 8-2 before Saturday’s contest.

“They’re an awfully good team,” Swope said. “And we knew we would have to play flawlessly. We didn’t. We didn’t play well defensively, and we put some guys on base. The game got away from us a little bit.”

Cheyenne Mountain was in striking distance through the first three innings, trailing Ponderosa 3-1.

But by the time the fourth inning ended, the Hawks trailed 10-1.

The inning had a little bit of everything Cheyenne Mountain didn’t want: walks, errors, passed balls. And a whole lot of hitting. The Hawks used three different pitchers in the inning.

“Their lineup, one through nine, is really good,” Swope said. “You don’t typically see that in high school lineups. So you have to be down in the zone, you have to work hitters, you have to make speeds and hope they’re not seeing the ball that day. And they were seeing it today.”

It was a disappointing end to an incredible season for Cheyenne Mountain. One made even more difficult because of the absence of Josh Collier, who died in a car crash in October 2020. This would have been his senior season.

The Hawks made sure he was with them every step of the way, taking his jersey with them onto the field during the national anthem before every contest.

“For teenagers to go through something like that, losing a friend, and for a lot of them, that was the first time they lose someone close,” Swope said. “It was tough on the boys, but I think it helped knowing that we brought home with us.”

The Hawks wanted to be the ones celebrating with a dog pile at home plate on Saturday. For themselves, and for Josh. Baseball, like life, isn’t always fair. But that doesn’t make it any less worthwhile.

“We fought, we scratched, we did everything we could to get here,” Swope said. “I’m proud of them.”

No doubt, Josh is, too.



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