GREELEY — University baseball coach Casey Miller had a clear message written on the lineup card that he posted in his team’s dugout at Butch Butler Field.

Make it to the next game!

After beating Delta 9-5, he posted another message as the Bulldogs took on Colorado Academy, the team that had beaten them last weekend.

Make it to the ship!

Message received by the players. They took an early five-run lead over the Mustangs and held on to get a 6-5 win to punch their ticket to the Class 3A state championship game where they’ll get a third – and hopefully a fourth – showdown with Eaton.

“That was the message,” Miller said. “Starting off with Delta, I know how good a team they are and they wanted us. And they’re a really good hitting team so I knew it wasn’t going to be a pushover, an easy game. And it wasn’t. It was a really good baseball game and we had to be sharp to beat them.”

The Bulldogs were sharp enough, but they definitely feel like they haven’t played their best baseball during the course of the state tournament.

Maybe they’re just saving the best for last.

“We have to come out and still play our game,” Connor Weber said. “But we have nothing to lose at this point.”

Weber came up big for the Bulldogs in a lot of ways on Friday. University took a 3-1 lead after the third inning against Delta but in the fourth, the Panthers’ bats got hot. They got starting pitcher Riggs Towle for four runs and Weber came in to throw the last four innings of relief. In those four innings, he gave up just three hits and one run as University offense got rolling in the fourth.

Against Colorado Academy, it was a bit of a similar story. Weber was part of a five-run second inning with an RBI single that started the rally.

After Korey Koehler was removed for meeting the pitch count limit, Weber again came in for relief duty. The Mustangs – no strangers to battling back from late deficits – cut the University lead to 6-5 on a Miles Evans RBI single. Charlie Rakowski then singled to load the bases, but Weber struck out Kieran Delaney and Fraser Smith to end the game and send the Bulldogs to the state championship game.

“Those two strikeouts meant everything to me,” Weber said. “I was just thinking that I’m not letting them do it again. I was on the mound when we lost to them earlier in the tournament and I wasn’t letting them do it again.”

Now the Bulldogs see a familiar opponent in two-time defending champion Eaton. The Reds already have two wins over University this season. After Eaton’s league win over the Bulldogs earlier this year, Miller said that he was “sick and tired of saying next time” when it comes to beating their rivals.

The good news for him is that the Bulldogs are alive to get a shot at next time.

“We just have have to compete and enjoy the day and work our tails off,” Miller said. “We worked our way back to another opportunity. It’s an opportunity. Our backs are against the wall and we know that. Everyone in the state knows who the best team on paper is. [But] baseball is a weird game and stranger things have happened. I just know that we have to be really really good.”

The state championship game will begin at 10 a.m. at Butch Butler. University has to beat Eaton twice in order to capture its sixth title in program history. Eaton just needs one win to get its third straight title and title No. 14 overall.

(Dan Mohrmann/