Two late HRs lift Pine Creek baseball to regular-season finale win, perfect in-state record

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Photo - Pine Creek's Kyle Moran (2) raises his helmet to teammate Riley Cornelio (15) after Cornelio slammed a solo home run against Regis Jesuit during the Eagles' 2-0 victory Saturday on May 5, 2018. (Photo by Jeff Kearney, Special to The Gazette)
Pine Creek's Kyle Moran (2) raises his helmet to teammate Riley Cornelio (15) after Cornelio slammed a solo home run against Regis Jesuit during the Eagles' 2-0 victory Saturday on May 5, 2018. (Photo by Jeff Kearney, Special to The Gazette)

This wasn’t a typical Pine Creek baseball outing.

There was no huge rally, no blowout, no shortened game.

In Saturday’s regular-season finale against Regis Jesuit, the Eagles struggled to manufacture hits against a pitcher who hadn’t lost in two years. But things finally got going late. And in the final two at-bats, both junior Riley Cornelio and senior Justin Olson slammed a solo home run to lift Pine Creek to a 2-0 win at home.

The victory boosted the Eagles’ mark to 17-2, which includes a perfect record against in-state foes. Their only losses came against Arizona teams.

And now, it’s on to the postseason.

Pine Creek is rated third in the state’s Class 5A RPI standings behind Mountain Vista (19-0) and Heritage (14-5). The Eagles captured their ninth consecutive 5A Colorado Springs Metro League championship with a 12-0 record, outscored opponents 205-24 and shut out teams 12 times.

Eagles coach Glenn Millhauser said Saturday’s game was an example of the stiff competition his team will likely face in the postseason, starting with next week’s regional tournaments. RPIs don’t always prove a team’s true potential, he pointed out.

“This could be your first opponent here,” the coach said, referring to Regis Jesuit (8-11). “They’re going to be like a 29th seed and they’re very good, as you can see. Sometimes when the RPI bracket comes out, you’ll get a tougher team than you really expect, even when you’re a No. 3-ranked team.”

In the bottom of the fifth inning, the Eagles finally broke away. Cornelio hit a home run with two outs over the center-field fence against Regis' Matthew Boyd, who entered the nonconference game with a 12-0 record during the past two years. Boyd finished with five strikeouts.

Then, Olson led the bottom of the sixth with a homer to right field.

“The momentum kept shifting throughout the game,” the senior said. “And when Riley hit the home run, all the momentum was on our side. That’s when we knew we were going to win this game.”

Cornelio also impressed on the mound, striking out six batters and allowing just three hits in six innings. Olson came in to relieve in the seventh and struck out two batters.

As Olson said, games likely won’t get any easier.

The Eagles boast five Division I-bound players in Cornelio (TCU), Olson (Kentucky), Jay Onken (Utah), Parker Gregory (Wichita State) and Zac Heisler (Towson University). Millhauser called that kind of talent on a single roster as “unusual.”

“I truly knew we were going to have a special team,” Olson said. “But I didn’t know it was going to be anything to this caliber. We have everything we want from outfielders to infielders to our sixth and seventh pitchers to a great catcher behind the plate. We got everything we need to go far in the playoffs.”