Canon City unexpected host for baseball regional; Air Academy will also host

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Photo - Mesa Ridge second baseman Jarod Morris tags out Canon City's Michael Hawver as he tries to extend a single into a double Tuesday, May 2, 2017, during the first inning at Mesa Ridge High School. The game was postponed in the bottom of the third inning because of rain with Canon City ahead 10-2.   (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)
Mesa Ridge second baseman Jarod Morris tags out Canon City's Michael Hawver as he tries to extend a single into a double Tuesday, May 2, 2017, during the first inning at Mesa Ridge High School. The game was postponed in the bottom of the third inning because of rain with Canon City ahead 10-2. (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)

Canon City's baseball team wasn't quite packing its bags, but it was all set to make a trip to Windsor for one of this weekend's Class 4A baseball regional tournaments.

But then came a call from The Classical Academy athletic director Gary Geiger, the 4A Colorado Springs Metro League representative to Wednesday's baseball meeting.

He was calling to let the Tigers know they didn't need to pack anything. Canon City was named a regional site host despite finishing seven spots out of the top eight in the RPI that was used to determine playoff seeds and region hosts.

"We're pleasantly surprised," Tigers coach Tim Ritter said.

In 4A, the top eight league champions get to host, based on RPI. Conifer, ranked 36th in RPI, won the Colorado 7 League. Because CSML champ Canon City was No. 15, the Tigers host ahead of Conifer, Geiger confirmed.

The Tigers won't be the only 4A team from the region to host a tournament Saturday. Pikes Peak Athletic Conference champion Air Academy will also host.

air academy
The Air Academy baseball team became league champions with a win over Lewis-Palmer 7-3 at Air Academy High School on Thursday, May 4, 2017. Photo by Jerilee Bennett, The Gazette 

And the Kadets were awarded that chance in a more conventional way after finishing fifth in RPI.

They will open against No. 29 Rifle. In an interesting twist, the Kadets, who swept Cheyenne Mountain when the Indians looked like the front-runner to win the PPAC, could host Cheyenne Mountain in the regional final with a state-tournament berth on the line.

In the final 5A RPI rankings, 5A CSML champion Pine Creek was buried at 24. The Eagles are in a regional with No. 8 Legacy, which they would see in the region final. But first they have to get past No. 9 Brighton.

After last year's exit in the regional finale as the top seed in the state, Pine Creek coach Glenn Millhauser isn't too disappointed about going on the road.

"Well, last year we were ranked one," Millhauser said. "It (being on the road) doesn't bother us much. We're almost not upset about it at all. If anything it gives us a little bit more to prove. We're so far down there that maybe that makes us a little more aggressive."

Millhauser is expecting to see Bulldogs ace Liam Eddy in the regional opener, calling him "one of the better aces in the state." Eddy is 5-1 with a 2.60 ERA, with one of those victories against No. 1 Cherry Creek.

Manitou Springs and St. Mary's are both on the road in the 3A postseason, with No. 10 St. Mary's in the same region as host No. 5 Peak to Peak and the No. 17 Mustangs in the same region as No. 2 Lutheran.

While most area teams will hit the road, Canon City is hoping to make the most of its unexpected opportunity.

"Given a chance to play at home as compared to on the road, we'll take it any time," Ritter said.

The Tigers have won eight in a row and are hoping to keep that momentum.

"We feel good," he said. "Baseball is a streaky sport. A lot of streaks can end as quickly as they start, but we feel good where we're at."