“Never say goodbye,
never say goodbye
You and me and my old friends
Hoping it would never end
Say goodbye, never say goodbye
Holdin’ on - we got to try
Holdin’ on to never say goodbye”
— Bon Jovi, `Never Say Goodbye’
As a child of 80’s hair metal, I couldn’t help but think of this song’s chorus as Cherry Creek made its march towards the Class 5A state baseball championship.
The top-seeded Bruins probably should’ve been out of the tournament on more than one occasion, but somehow, some way, found a way to win, especially when a game reached the final inning.
They refused to say goodbye.
All the late-inning heroics made the school’s first state championship since 1999 even sweeter for the players involved with the 2012 team.
“We just trusted each other as a team and were there to pick each other up,” said rightfielder Ethan Kang, who kicked off the Cherry Creek dramatics with a game-tying three-run home run in the seventh inning against Pine Creek in the opening game of the tournament that the Bruins went on to win in eight innings, 7-6. “We never doubted that we could win.”
After dropping a game to Legend, the Bruins faced Centennial League rival Grandview in an elimination game. Again, the Bruins were down as they headed to the final inning, this time by a 5-2 deficit.
Dyllin Mucha hit a two-run double that evened the score and he would score the game-winning run on a Lane Milligan fly ball to right.
Cherry Creek was holdin’ on to never say goodbye.
On May 25, the Bruins found themselves in a good old-fashioned dog fight with Highlands Ranch, and for the second time in the tournament, played extra innings.
This time, it was Andy Heider that came through with the big hit as he broke a 2-2 tie with a double to left-centerfield to give Cherry Creek a 3-2 victory.
“I’ve said all year that our lineup one-through-nine was dangerous,” Cherry Creek coach Marc Johnson said. “I think we proved that in this tournament. The seven-through-nine guys carried us the first weekend and then everyone swung the bats well the last two days.”
Cherry Creek was hoping that this moment would never end.
Thankfully for the Bruins, the last two games didn’t require any last-inning heroics. They pounced on Regis early as they led 6-1 after two innings, and while the Raiders attempted a rally of their own, the Bruins advanced to the 5A championship game with a 9-6 victory.
The championship game against Legend was all about pitcher Derik Beauprez, who dominated the Titans with a complete-game, one-hit effort as the Bruins mobbed one another following the 6-0 championship-clinching victory.
The Bruins can now say goodbye to 2012, but it won’t be a somber moment. They’ll always remember that mob scene just to the right of the pitching mound, posing for photos with the state championship trophy, and likely, will remember the load, windy road they took to reach their ultimate goal.
“I can’t really put this into words … it’s surreal,” Kang said. “We worked so hard for this.”