LAKEWOOD - The Merino Rams showed up to All-Star Park in Lakewood with red-hot bats and dialed-in pitching, as Merino captured the second baseball state championship in program history, and their second in the last three seasons, with a 10-9 victory over the Akron Rams.

In the semifinal game, Merino rode a 12-run second inning to a 20-1 victory over Dove Creek, and carried that momentum into the state championship final, despite an early scare from Akron that came in the form of a five-run deficit at the end of the first half-inning.

"We started off pretty rough, to be honest with you, but today it just felt a little different with the boys we had." Merino baseball head coach Logan Tharp remarked, following the victory. "They were hitting the ball really well today, and you couldn't ever really count us out of it. It was all in the kids. They pulled through hit after hit, big play after big play, and I couldn't ask for much more than that."

Outside of the first half-inning though, Merino was unstoppable, outscoring its opponents by a combined score of 30-5 over the course the other 11 innings the Rams played on Thursday.

"Baseball is such a mental game, that it just comes down to the body language of everything," Coach Tharp said, of his team's resilience. "So you can't let the boys get down, and I can't let them see me get down. It's all about staying positive and chipping away at the lead."

Merino quickly responded with a four-run inning that sliced the lead to one, and an inning later, the Rams donning maroon had the game knotted back up at 6-6. One inning after, Merino knocked home two more runs, to gain its first lead of game, at 8-6.

Then, in the top of the seventh inning, Merino was met with more adversity, as a line drive sailed past third base to score two runs for Akron, and flip the score from 8-7, in favor of Merino, to 9-8, in favor of Akron. Merino managed to stem the bleeding, but the damage was already done, and its state title hopes were on life support.

Fortunately, Kaden Piel was coming to the the plate to start off the seventh, and got Merino rolling again with a shot to the outfield, leading to a single. From there, Merino's offense lit up, and promptly loaded the bases. Then, with the bases loaded, another pivotal line drive found its way into left field, and two Merino base runners sprinted home for the walk-off victory.

"This has been a rollercoaster season," Piel said. "If you asked us before the season if we thought we would be here, we would have said yes, but I don't know if, in our hearts, we would have actually believed it. This team is special and I can't think of a better way to go out with a bang.

On same day when Piel got to be a hero for Merino's baseball team, his sister, Kya Piel, defended her state title in the 3200m.

"I can't wait to celebrate with her once I see her," Kaden exclaimed after hearing of his sister's victory.