Mountain Vista’s varsity baseball team traveled to All City Field to play Heritage High School on Saturday, May 26, to stay alive in the CHSAA 5A Baseball State Championship. The Golden Eagles lost their first game to Arapahoe High School in the double elimination tournament and fought their way past Rocky Mountain and Pine Creek High School to reach the Final Four.
Junior John Zakhem put Vista on the board first against Heritage, hitting a towering solo home run in the top of the fourth inning. The Golden Eagles led, 1-0, until the top of the sixth when juniors Clay Burke and Zack Hoff would expand Vista’s lead to four runs with Burke’s two run double and Hoff’s R.B.I. bunt single. Zakhem added one more RBI in the top of the seventh inning. Junior Sam Ireland helped secure the win from the mound for Vista. The Golden Eagles beat Heritage, 5-0. Vista would play the next day against the Arapahoe/Mountain Range winner.
On Sunday, Vista came back to All City Field to play Mountain Range High School, the surprise team to make it this far into the tournament. The Golden Eagles didn’t have any issues getting past the Mustangs. Ireland and junior Elisandro Aragon tallied two runs in the first inning to give Vista an early lead. In the third inning, junior Grant Magill smacked a three run home run over the fence and senior Cooper Jamieson roped a RBI double into the outfield to increase Vista’s lead to six runs over the Mustangs. In the next inning, Vista put seven more runs on the board with contributions from Magill, Zakhem, Burke, and junior Drew Stahl. Hoff added one more run for the Golden Eagles in the fifth inning after scoring on a wild pitch. On the mound for Vista, sophomore Ben Cole limited the Mustangs to only four runs during his stellar complete game. He went on to lead Vista to a 14-4 mercy rule victory over Mountain Range.
“[Cole] is young but we had a lot of confidence [in him],” junior Nick Englhard said. “We knew he was going to get ground balls and keep us in the game.”
After defeating Mountain Range, Mountain Vista turned their attention to the afternoon state title game against the Heritage Eagles. The Eagles were the only obstacle that stood in the way of the Golden Eagles’ first ever state baseball title.
Mountain Vista scored first in the championship game, thanks to Zakhem’s RBI single to right field in the top of the second inning. Heritage tied up the game in the bottom of the third, but the Golden Eagles responded mightily in the fourth with six more runs. Senior Jack Liffrig backed Vista’s bats from the mound with his phenomenal pitching. Liffrig pitched “lights out” for the last three innings and and allowed only one more run to the Heritage Eagles. “I just tried to keep us in the ballgame,” Liffrig said. “[I used] the same game plan I had all year: get ahead and let your defense do the work.”
Mountain Vista took home the 5A state title with a 7-2 win over Heritage. Immediately after the final out, the team met in a frenzied dogpile and fans lined up on the fences to witness history unfolding on the field.
“It’s unreal,” Stahl said. “We have been dreaming about getting back out here since last year. [It] is the best feeling and this is why you play.”
The Golden Eagles ended their incredible season with a 26-1 record.