LAKEWOOD — It’s rare that a team with a 6-0 lead needs to rally to earn a victory.

That’s exactly what happened with Cherokee Trail the Class 5A state tournament on June 2.

The No. 25 seeded Cougars defeated No. 5 seed Rock Canyon 10-9 in eight innings at Kelli McGregor Field at All-Star Park and advanced to face No. 15 Valor Christian in the championship game June 3 at 10 a.m.

“I don’t think a lot of people were expecting us to be here as the 25 seed,” Cherokee Trail coach Jonathan DiGiorgio said. “Our guys took that to heart and just kept grinding.”

Cherokee Trail had lost six consecutive games to Rock Canyon and had not defeated the Jaguars since May 4, 2018, in a 5-4 victory.

The Cougars started hot as they scored four runs in the first and two more in the top of the second to build a 6-0 lead heading to the bottom of the second.

However, the Cougars have held and dropped the lead in multiple games this season.

While they celebrated, players and coaches knew the Jaguars were still alive.

“We’re up 6-0 and I’m thinking keep the lead and don’t lose it how we’ve done all tournament,” DiGiorgio said. “[Rock Canyon] is a great hitting team and we’ve been back and forth all year. We knew it was early in the game and we had to keep playing.”

Rock Canyon scored one in the bottom of the second to make it 6-1.

But Sean Barta’s 3-RBI 390-foot homer in the third made it 6-4. After the Jaguars scored a run to make it 6-5 in the fourth, JT Shank crushed another home run 350 feet to take a 7-6 lead.

The Jaguars added one more run in the fifth to build an 8-6 advantage.

“At that point I told our guys don’t quit,” DiGiorgio said. “It’s not in our identity. We always fight through things. We said from the start of the tournament not to be denied and that’s what we went with.”

Rock Canyon held Cherokee Trail scoreless from the third through fifth innings but allowed two runs in the top of the sixth to knot the game at 8-all.

The Jaguars scored one in the bottom of the sixth and took a 9-8 lead to the eighth and needed three outs to head to the title game.

Tommy Munch stepped to the plate for the Cougars and hit an RBI single and helped send the game to extra innings.

Then, senior Johnny Robledo entered the box with the chance to take the lead in the eighth.

Cherokee Trail had previously left the bases loaded and runners on second and third twice in the contest.

Robledo said that didn’t affect his team’s confidence.

“We just needed to put one ball in play,” Robledo said. “I knew I needed to get something on my bat. The [at-bat] before I didn’t get a good hit on the ball but it still went through and as long as we could pass the baton to the next guy that’s all that matters.”

With a 2-1 count and an out on the board, Robledo swung and sent the ball to right field and his RBI triple gave the Cougars a 10-9 lead.

“I just had to get the barrel on it,” Robledo said. “With my speed I knew I could make it to anywhere. I put the ball in the gap and it allowed me to get a triple.”

The bottom half of the inning lasted less than four minutes as Rock Canyon had two outs in 90 seconds.

The Jaguars’ final at-bat saw a ball fly to right field and land in the right fielder’s mitt.

“It’s unbelievable,” DiGiorgio said. “For Johnny to get that hit and for us to get this victory, it’s a big deal.”

(Marcus Hill)