GREELEY – The lingering aftermath of a traditional state baseball thunderstorm helped the undefeated, three-time defending state champions get going.

After a nearly 90-minute lightning delay, in a scoreless game in the bottom of the third, Eaton designated hitter Garrett Garrison got underneath a Scotty Thompson fastball and lifted it into the heavens. The swirling winds took care of the rest. University left fielder Connor Danhoff looked settled underneath the routine fly ball.

Then he took a couple steps in. Then a couple more. By the time he had a better read on the ball, it had fallen back to Earth, allowing Kade Gentry and Gunnar Duncan to score. A gust from the gods got him.

“I saw him running in for that ball and it scared me a bit,” Garrison said. “I thought he was going to catch it with two runners in scoring position and two outs, but it was a big sigh of relief for me to get those two runs across.”

On the stage where Eaton performs at the highest of levels on an annual basis, two runs were more than enough. The Reds beat University 2-0 to advance to the Class 3A baseball state championship game next week.

University, Coal Ridge and Resurrection Christian are all still alive in the tournament. The Titans and Cougars will meet next Friday with the winner getting University later in the day. That game will determine who gets a shot to beat Eaton twice on Saturday.

But as far as the Reds go, “the count is zero-jocko.”

That’s the saying printed on the back of the team shirts for the season. A printing error put quotation marks in the wrong spot, but the message still counts the same for the boys. These players aren’t defending anything. What they’ve won in the past has no impact on what they’re doing in the present.

The count is zero. Jocko was just the guy to say it.

“Every day it starts new,” Eaton coach Todd Hernandez said. “Monday they’ll take off and then we’ll come back and practice Tuesday and try to get better day by day.”

After surviving a near loss on Friday against Forge Christian, the Reds rolled to their second win over Coal Ridge. Lucas Stone was given the ball and the task of beating Eaton’s rival in the most important game of the first weekend of the tournament.

At times, runners reached early but Stone never let any real damage get done He struck out 10 hitters, including a massive strikeout of Preston Natividad in the top of the 6th with Kaleb Tejada on third base.

Anytime the Bulldogs threatened, Stone seemed to have the right answer to get out of the jam.

(Dan Mohrmann/

“I didn’t execute a few pitches I wanted to and they got some hits off them,” Stone said. “Knowing that I have the team behind me that I do, Joey [Blaskowski] made some great plays, Cooper [Nider] made some great plays, Liam [Whalen] made a great diving play in the last inning, it’s stuff like that where it feels easy to just push through those moments.”

Eaton now heads into the second weekend of the tournament in a very familiar spot. With no losses this weekend, they’re assured of playing for the state title and they won’t even see Butch Butler Field until Saturday, unless of course they want to check out the Friday games just to see who’s advancing.

A state title win would make Eaton the second baseball program in state history to win four championships in a row on two separate occasions. Revere won state titles from 1969-73 and then rattled off four in a row from 1976-79. The Reds are one of three programs to win four consecutive titles along with Revere, Cherry Creek (1995-98) Rocky Mountain (2007-10).

History is at Eaton’s doorstep. But that’s not the concern going into next weekend. The Reds are doing everything they can to accomplish a goal for this year and this year alone.

The count is zero-jocko.

(Dan Mohrmann/