LAKEWOOD – As far as emotional roller coaster goes, Merino’s Kaden Piel just had the ride of his life. He started the Class 1A baseball championship on the mound for Merino with every intention of leading the Rams to their second state title in program history.

Although the end result, a 10-9 walk-off win for Merino, was exactly what he was hoping for, it was quite the journey to get there.

He was removed from the game in the first inning with Akron up 3-0 and no outs on the board. He was part of a multi-inning rally that got Merino up 8-6 in the bottom of the third, finishing his day going 2-for-4 with a pair of RBIs.

With the lead in hand going into the top of the seventh, Piel was re-inserted on the mound, but a pair of singles and an intentional walk loaded the bases for Jakzon Livesay who hit a 2-RBI double to give Akron a 9-8 lead.

Leading off the bottom of the seventh, Piel reached on a single and scored the game-tying run on a Zavier Trenkle base hit, then watched as Caleb Dienes hit a slow roller on the infield to score Josiah Mackintosh and give the state title to Merino.

And in the midst of all of this, his sister, Kya, claimed a 3,200-meter run state title just up the road at Jeffco Stadium.

Have a day, Kaden.

“I can’t wait to see her,” Piel said. “I’m going to have to go see her at her hotel and give her a big hug. She’s a stud, she deserves everything.”

As for his accomplishment, he thinks of it as the furthest thing away from his accomplishment. This championship belongs to the guys who picked him up when he was struggling to get outs and rallied behind him when the Rams again fell behind and were down tot their final three outs.

“It’s not me, it’s them,” Piel said. “If you had asked us at the beginning of the season if you thought we’d be here, we probably would have said yes, but I don’t know if in our hearts we would have actually believed it. This team is special.”

This is Merino’s second 1A baseball title in three seasons. They won their first championship in program history with in a 4-3, 10-inning thriller over Holly in 2022.

Piel was on the mound in that one as well, throwing 4 2/3 innings that were vital to that championship joy that he experienced then and got to relive in 2024.

“I think my quote in that [story] is that the kid is a dog,” coach Logan Tharp said. “He didn’t start hot today. He knows it, I know it. Give him a couple innings to get dialed back in and you don’t want any other kid in a bigger moment than him.”

Piel rewarded his coach’s faith. And the faith of his teammates to rally behind when things got tough. But through seven innings, the winning Rams battled together to accomplish a goal they weren’t sure was possible.

And for Kaden, when he gets the time to connect with Kya, everyone will celebrate a championship Thursday for Merino and the Piel siblings.


(6) Akron 5 1 0 1 0 0 2 9
(1) Merino 4 2 2 0 0 0 2 10

(Dan Mohrmann/