PUEBLO – This game needed a hero and Asher Hawes delivered for Denver Christian.

In the top of the eighth inning, the junior crushed a curveball over the 330-foot fence in left field at Andenucio Field powering the Thunder to a 6-3 win over Peyton in the Class 2A semifinals Saturday.

“I was looking to hit a gap-shot double,” Hawes said. “I saw the curve, recognized it, sat on it, and put everything into it. I’m just proud of my teammates and my coaches, they are great. It feels like this was a long time coming.”

Hawes’ homer, his sixth of the season, came with one out, off Peyton starting pitcher Bryce Love. It started a rally, which included a two-run single by Braydon Epperhard putting DC up 6-3. Peyton fought back in the bottom of the eighth, getting runners on first and third, but Toby Redmond popped out to end the game.

No. 3 seed Denver Christian (23-3) advances to the 2A championship game to face Limon (23-4) at 11 a.m., June 3 at Rawlings Field on the CSU-Pueblo campus. No. 2-seeded Peyton ended its season at 25-2.

“These kids, they have shown heart, they have shown fight, they have shown grit all year,” Denver Christian coach Sam Jones said. “They are never out of it, and I believe in them. Asher hit that ball and I think I jumped out of my shoes. I was so fired up and we tacked on those two insurance runs which set the tone for the bottom of the eighth to get three outs.”

Denver Christian won state baseball titles in 1996 and 2013, but this has been a long road back to play for another crown.

“There was a rough patch where the program had not won more than four games since 2014 and we took over four years ago and we made three straight elite 8s and now we are in the state championship,” Jones said. “All the credit goes to the players and the coaching staff. They have put the time and work in, and everybody bought in.”

The Thunder appeared to take control of the game in the fourth. With one out, Ari Waanders singled up the middle and stole second. Sam Waanders struck out, but catcher AJ Kranz dropped the third strike and overthrew first base, allowing Ari Waanders to race to third. Patrick Elson then slashed an RBI single to left and moments later Sam Waanders scored on a wild pitch from Love, putting the Thunder up 3-0.

The Panthers answered in the bottom of the fourth with some offense of their own.

Love led off with a single and Zayden Ebbert walked. Owen Compton bunted back to pitcher Brayden Epperhard, who bobbled the ball to load the bases. Linkin Compton proceeded to pop out to the catcher Hawes.

Peyton’s John Turner drew a base on balls on a full count to get the Panthers within 3-1. The next batter Noah Martin had an infield hit past Epperhard to make the score 3-2.

In the bottom of the sixth relief pitcher Caleb Stork came in for Epperhard. Epperhard went five innings, gave up two earned runs, six hits, struck three and walked four.

Stork retired the side in the sixth, but Peyton rallied in the seventh.

With one out, Kranz got an infield single to third, bringing up Logan Nickell who scorched a grounder off Stork’s thigh. Love then swatted a 3-2 pitch for a single to left tying the game at 3.

Nickell got in a rundown between second and third for the second out. Zayden Ebbert struck out looking to end the frame. Stork then completed the save in the eighth.

“We are just going to focus on having a good week of practice and being prepared for the game next (Saturday),” Jones said.


(1) Limon 11, (5) Holyoke 4.

Limon, the reigning back-to-back 2A state champs, showed why in the third inning.

The Badgers erupted for six runs in the frame to cruise to the win and into another state title game. Holyoke’s season ended at 16-7. This was the Dragons second loss to Limon this season as they also fell 7-5 on May 13.

Holyoke took a 1-0 lead in the top of the second on an infield single up the middle by Colby Weber. Cash Weber drew a two-out bases-loaded walk to push the Dragons up 2-0 and moments later Colby Weber sped home on a wild pitch by Trey Smith putting Holyoke up 3-0.

Then Limon came alive in the third with six hits.

Jordan Rockwell smashed a two-run double to deep center field to get the Badgers within 3-2.

Keon Bandy was intentionally walked and stole second, leaving runners on second and third for Cale Bennett. Holyoke southpaw Ty Sandquist Dirks fired a wild pitch to plate Rockwell and then Bennett laced an RBI double to give Limon its first lead at 4-3. Brody Sherrer’s run-scoring double made it 5-3 for the Badgers. Mason Jaques added an RBI single to give Limon a 6-3 lead.

In the bottom of the fourth, Limon added two more runs on a wild pitch and a single by Lance Beedy to make it 8-3.

Holyoke did cut the lead to 8-4 with a run in the fifth and the Dragons chased starting pitcher Smith with two outs in the frame. Smith gave up four runs, five hits, struck out four and had six walks and one hit batter. Rockwell came in relief.

Limon finished the Dragons off with three runs in the fifth to go up 11-4, which is where the score remained at game’s end.