Tuesday night's year-end banquet for the Manitou Springs baseball team was a bit misleading, and not in a bad way.
The Mustangs' season actually isn't over.
The No. 11 Mustangs (15-9) take on No. 8 Kent Denver (15-8) in a Class 3A state playoff elimination game Saturday at Butch Butler Field in Greeley. (The game was originally scheduled for Friday, but rain Thursday night pushed it back a day and pushed the final to Sunday.)
"It was nice," Mustangs senior Travis Struble said of the banquet. "Kind of mixed emotions because you want to treat it like you're saying goodbye, but you know you're still playing with these guys this weekend."
Manitou Springs coach Cory Archuleta pointed to Struble (the Mustangs' ace), Dominic Archuleta and Davyn Adamscheck as the players who've helped point the team in the right direction.
"Those three have taught those kids (on the team) to let them know, instill confidence," Cory Archuleta said. "They did a lot of things together. They talked, opened up, let them air grievances or concerns and talk about what they want to be as baseball team."
Those three led by example last week. Struble went 2 for 6 with a home run, four RBI and three runs scored over three games. He also pitched a complete game against rival St. Mary's. Archuleta was 8 of 11 with seven runs scored and five RBI, and Adamscheck had six hits, seven RBI and three runs in the 2-1 weekend.
"We kind of wanted to spread that attitude to be competitive with every aspect," Struble said about leading the squad. "Whether you're at bat or pitching it, you're going to beat the kid you're playing against. The mentality of the team has grown a lot the last few weeks."
The last time the Mustangs were among the final four teams playing on the final weekend of the high school sports season was 2009, when Cory Archuleta was an assistant.
"That '09 team was different just because it was nothing but straight power," the coach said. "... Ours is a more gritty, grinding, lunch-pail group of kids."
That year the Mustangs also faced Kent Denver in the state tournament, beating the Sun Devils 11-2 on the first weekend. Manitou defeated Kent earlier this season too, outlasting Kent 6-5 at the Northern Colorado Baseball Classic at Eaton in early April.
The Sun Devils opened the state tournament by defeating No. 1 Eaton, which was knocked out of the tournament in its second game. So Friday's game presents no easy task.
But just the idea of playing this final weekend has Struble excited.
"It's amazing," he said. "I didn't really see it coming. To still have a chance at winning it all, it's indescribable."