UNITED STATES AIR FORCE ACADEMY — Golden’s baseball team is exactly where it was a year in the Class 4A double-elimination state tournament.

The No. 2-seeded Demons (26-3 record) are back in the Final 4 for the second year in a row after dominating Palisade 15-5 (5 innings) in an elimination game Saturday, May 25, at Erdle Field at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs.

“There is nothing better than going to the Final 4,” Golden senior Braeden McCarroll said. “We just have to play our game. I think this team can go as far as we want to as long as we play Golden baseball.”

A season ago when Golden finished as the 4A state runner-up to Severance, the Demons lost to top-seeded Holy Family in the second-round to knock Golden into the consolation bracket. The same thing happened this last weekend when Golden lost to Falcon in the Demons’ second-round game.

Last year, Golden worked its way through the consolation bracket taking elimination-game wins over Riverdale Ridge, Lutheran and Holy Family to get all the way to face Severance. A tough 1-0 loss to Severance put an end to the Cinderella run as Golden fell short of winning its first state baseball title since 2003.

Photo by Dennis Pleuss/Jeffco Public Schools

“I think it helped a lot,” McCarroll said of the experience from last year facing an elimination game during the first week of the state tournament. “We know that feeling of what it is like to lose that second game, but bounce back.”

This year it is Holy Family (21-5-1) who is in the driver’s seat going 3-0 during the opening week of the state tournament. The Tigers are now waiting to see who comes out of the consolation bracket to face Holy Family at 10 a.m. Saturday, June 1, at Erdle Field.

Golden is joined by Pueblo County and Falcon in the consolation bracket. Whoever survives Friday’s games coming up will have to defeat Holy Family twice on Saturday. The Demons would have to beat Pueblo County on Friday morning at the Air Force Academy, turnaround and get revenge on Falcon to even get to Holy Family on Saturday.

“I don’t mind being the underdog. I kind of like being the underdog,” Golden junior Luca Casali said. “We’ll grind and get after it a little bit. I think everyone is excited about the challenge ahead.”

Casali and McCarroll powered the Demons past Palisade. Both hit 3-run home runs in the first two innings to give Golden an early 10-1 lead.

“We all changed our approach at the plate because we had to. We didn’t hit all that great yesterday (Friday, May 24),” McCarroll said. “I tried to go the other way today and it worked out pretty well for us.”

Casali and McCarroll, along with freshman Dylan Paulson, senior Jacob Dehm, sophomore Brody McBroom and junior Sawyer Brinkman all had a multiple-hit game against the Bulldogs.

“Seeing everyone come out and hit today was awesome,” Casali said of every starter getting a base knock in the 14-hit attack by the Demons. “If everyone is hitting, I don’t think there isn’t anything stopping us from winning state.”

Casali leads the Demons in batting average, home runs and RBIs. He kept it going with the bat in a big way last weekend.

“Right now it’s all confidence for me,” said Casali, who went 8-for-9 from the plate with a pair of home runs and 6 RBIs in the three playoff games in Colorado Springs. “I’m building confidence off the at-bats before. Even after a bad at-bat, I’m just flushing it and moving on to the next.”

The Demons were able to flush a tough 7-2 loss where McCarroll picked up only his second loss on the mound this season.

Photo by Dennis Pleuss/Jeffco Public Schools

“There was defintely better energy today,” Golden coach Jackie McBroom said after the 10-run win over Palisade. “Guys came out swinging the bats and things went our way.”

Golden will look to McCarroll, along with Brinkman and junior Taden Svendsen to carry the load on the mound. Brinkman threw a complete-game shutout win against Lewis-Palmer in Golden’s state tournament opener. Svendsen went 4 and 1/3 innings on the hill to pick up the win over Palisade to keep Golden’s season alive.

“We can do it,” Brinkman said of winning four games to close out the 4A state tournament. “We have the depth in our pitching to do it. We have our top three (Brinkman, McCarroll and Svendsen) and some really good closers. The key for us will be our swings, our bats. We have to get hot and stay hot.”