During Valor Christian’s run of three straight state baseball championships, the Eagles always entered the final weekend with a loss to their name and their backs against the wall.

This year, they’re taking a different approach.

Led by Keegan Waters’ 3-run home run in the top of the second, Valor rolled to an 11-1 win over Rock Canyon to go into the final weekend of the Class 5A baseball tournament as the 3-0 team.

The win guarantees them a spot in the state game and the Eagles (19-8 overall) have to be beaten twice for anyone else to come away with the state title.

That was the goal after a separate 11-1 win earlier on Saturday, that one against Regis Jesuit. Against the Jags, each team went through the first inning without getting a run on the board and then Waters opened the firehouse for the Eagles offense.

“It went above and beyond the tone we were trying to set for the day, honestly,” Valor coach Travis Cruz said. “We were just trying to stay together, stay as a brotherhood, and we just said, ‘Hey, we’re gonna go one guy at a time and we’re gonna chip away until we get what we’re looking for.”

The bulk of that offense came in the second inning as Carson Tinney also went yard to help Valor put nine runs on the board.

And then they let starting pitcher Hunter Smith do his thing with the lead. He threw a six-inning complete game, giving up just three hits and one earned run.

“Hunter, aka ‘Grits,’ was just serving up his daily meals of what he would be doing out there on the field, on the bayou basically is what [the team] calls it,” Cruz said. “He was dialed in. He stuck with the plan. We were going to stick with that fastball and try and keep location on that and let their barrels give us the outs.”

The plan worked better than anyone could have hoped for and now the Eagles will be in the same position as several teams that they have hunted down over the years.

With the team playing well at the right time, Cruz has no intention of taking a different approach when games resume next week at All-Star Park in Lakewood.

“We’ll continue to allow the boys to do what they’ve been doing,” he said. “We have daily competitions with each other. And they’re all continuing to grow that brotherhood, but also learning to compete.”

Regis Jesuit and Cherokee Trail will play each other next Friday with the winner of that game advancing to play Rock Canyon. The winner of that game will go on to meet Valor for the state championship.