PUEBLO – The rematch was a different story.

A week after No. 1 ranked Limon was upset by Lyons 5-1 in the second round of the Class 2A state tournament – the Badgers came ready to play when they met again in the semifinals.

Powered by a four-run first inning, Limon claimed revenge upending the Lions 8-3 Friday at Hobbs Field at the Runyon Field Sports Complex in the double-elimination tournament.

“This shows the resiliency of these guys,” said Limon coach Rocky Rockwell, whose team has a 4-1 record at this year’s state tourney. “Our pitchers didn’t take the ball (Friday) thinking if we lose, we are done. They were like ‘Give me the ball.’ I’m going to win to get us to the next game, that’s their championship mentality. They have shown that in every sport, football, basketball, wrestling and baseball. I’m just so proud to see that mentality.”

Rockwell said his team came in with a plan for its second meeting with Lyons in seven days.

“With a runner on second, their second baseman was holding us tight and there’s this big right side,” Rockwell said. “We printed off a picture and put it on our bus and we told our guys to look at the right side. Keon Bandy in the first inning, our three-hole hitter, he went hard barrel to right center. That’s what we were trying to get them to do all week. Take that big side and stop trying to pull it. Our sticks scored four in the first inning against Buena Vista, and we held on to win 4-3 and then we scored four in the first against Lyons. Our boys adapt so well when they have already seen a team.”

Limon (28-1), which edged Buena Vista in the consolation bracket Friday morning to get to the semis, will get another rematch with reigning state champ Denver Christian (23-4) at 10 a.m. Saturday in the state championship at Colorado State University’s Pueblo’s Rawlings Field.

The Badgers will have to defeat No. 2 Denver Christian twice to earn the 2A state championship. DC beat Limon 5-3 to win the 2A state crown last year.

This season Limon edged Denver Christian 8-6 on March 23.

Limon is searching for its fifth overall baseball title and third in the last four years, as it captured state championships in 2021 and 2022. Denver Christian has won state three times in 1996, 2013 and 2023 and posted wins over Monte Vista (4-1), Dayspring Christian (11-2) and Lyons (6-2) to reach Saturday’s championship game.

“This is going to be a tremendous match-up,” Rockwell said. “They never quit. We never quit. They are good ballplayers; we are good ballplayers. They have good pitching and good hitting and we do as well. I hope we give the fans a lot of enjoyment (Saturday) just two teams battling it out. If we can make this comeback through the loser’s bracket, I think it will validate that we were the No. 1 team this year, but we have a lot of work to do.”

Limon wasted no time in getting in gear against Lyons and pitcher Wyatt Waters – as its offense was rolling in the bottom of the first. Waters struck out seven Badgers in the first meeting at the state tourney between the two teams.

Jordan Rockwell had a lead-off single and Trey Smith was hit by a pitch. Keon Bandy proceeded to lace a single to right field – that was bobbled – scoring Rockwell. Moments later Lance Beedy cracked a two-run single to give the Badgers a 3-0 lead.

With two outs, Nathaniel Coonts got an infield hit and stole second. Moments later, Mason Jaques drew a walk to load the bases. Aiden Kollath then took a 2-1 wild pitch from Waters allowing Beedy to race home making it 4-0.

“It felt like we had to prove something to ourselves,” Bandy said. “We knew what we did last week was not the team we are now. We just wanted to go play our game and do our jobs. Against every team we try and put pressure on them. We love stealing and do everything to put pressure on and credit to our coaches. They love the game and teach us how to play it and we play it well.”

In the top of second, Lyons countered by loading the bases with two outs – but lead-off hitter Zack LaCrosse grounded out to third baseman Bandy to end the inning.

In the bottom of the second with one out, Waters hit back-to-back hitters in Bandy and Beedy. The first pitch to Brody Scherer was a passed ball, moving Bandy and Beedy to third and second.

Waters regrouped and fanned Scherrer looking on a slick curveball. It was Cale Bennett’s turn to step into the spotlight, but Bandy had other ideas.

The senior standout did a delayed steal of home. Waters saw what was unfolding and fired to catcher Calvin Russell, who tagged Bandy out but dropped the ball in the process, giving the Badgers a 5-0 advantage.

The bottom of third was more offense for Limon as Rockwell and Smith had back-to-back RBI singles, stretching the Badgers’ lead to 7-0 and Bandy smashed a run-scoring double, making it 8-0.

Waters lasted 2 2/3 innings – allowing eight runs – five which were earned and striking out three.

“They are a really good team and obviously it was their day today and it wasn’t really mine,” Waters said. “I thought I had my stuff, but they weren’t swinging at my curveballs, and they were hitting my fastballs.”

The top of fifth is when Lyons finally got to Limon starting pitcher Smith, scoring two runs on a hit and an error to get within 8-2.

After a lead-off walk to Henry Johnson in the top of the sixth, hurler Smith departed from the mound. He threw five innings, allowed five hits, and struck out one.

Scherer came in relief and gave up a two-out RBI single to Harper Leino as the Lions cut the deficit to 8-3. Scherer retired Zack LaCrosse, Davis Abernathy and Jake LaCrosse in order in the seventh.

“We executed (Friday),” Smith said. “We had a bunch of hits and got runners in and played the game well. “On the mound, I wanted to pound the zone, throw strikes. I knew I was going 110 pitches, and I was proud I did, and I was able to pound the zone.”

Smith is ready for the next rematch against DC Saturday.

“We need to go out and execute and play our game and play Badger baseball,” he said. “Go out get hits and pound the zone. The job is not finished, and we need to go out and get it.”

(Tracy Renck)