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Early home run gives Air Academy the edge in district finale against Discovery Canyon
Kevin Kimbrow is also the quarterback of the Kadets' football team, throwing for more than 1,000 yards this past season. He continued a trend of quarterbacks/baseball standouts helping their teams to next week's state tournament, joining Cheyenne Mountain's Bret Helton and Pine Creek's Ryan Warner.
"He's been swinging the bat really well and has tremendous power," coach Bernie Moncallo said. "He's the starting quarterback and a tremendous athlete. He's coming on at the right time."
As long as you hold no deep affection for Discovery Canyon or automobiles, Monday's 4A District 1 title game at Air Academy was for you.
The top-seeded Kadets jumped ahead in the first inning on Kevin Kimbrow's three-run home run that smashed into the hood of a car parked just beyond the left-field fence. Air Academy never lost the lead, topping the No. 16 Thunder 5-2 to complete the state tournament field after two days of weather delays.
Kadets pitcher Kevin Giordano, who tossed a complete game, said the car that was on the receiving end of Kimbrow's line drive belonged to a group of Discovery Canyon fans.
"That was real nice," Giordano said. "Shut them up in left field a little bit. That was a nice moment."
Kimbrow was running and didn't see the ball clear the fence, but he shared Giordano's general view.
"I heard about it and I laughed when I heard about it," Kimbrow said. "That was funny."
There wasn't much else to laugh about for the Kadets (19-2), who led by three runs after four batters but struggled to score the remainder of the game as it clung to a 3-1 lead when it came to bat in the fifth inning.
"That's the thing that got us to this game, is being down four or five runs didn't bother us all year long," Discovery Canyon coach Mike Barbato said. "It never has, hopefully it never does.
"Normally, when we get down we get better."
The Thunder (13-8) scored a run in the fourth without getting the ball out of the infield, but Air Academy answered with two runs in a similar rally in the fifth.
Tony Frost's RBI double in the sixth proved to be the final salvo for a squad that underwent a midseason coaching change yet found itself in what amounted to a play-in game for state, as the rest of the bracket had been completed over the weekend.
"There's not a soul in this town that expected Discovery Canyon to be in this game," said Barbato, who led the team to a 10-3 mark after taking over on April 12. "Not a soul at the beginning of the year."
The Kadets capitalized on the knowledge they gained in their 11-8 win over Discovery Canyon on May 3.
Giordano remembers leadoff hitter Isaac Holt hitting several balls hard in that first meeting, but he noticed Holt was a bit farther off the plate this time. So he gave him a steady diet of outside fastballs and Holt went 0-for-4.
"It's just making a few adjustments on players and trying to control what I can control and let my defense help me out," Giordano said.
The next adjustment will be to see how Air Academy handles a shorter-than-expected layoff between districts and state. While most teams will have from Saturday to Friday to rest their top pitchers, Air Academy will have be back at it after just three days off.
"(Kevin) Megyeri, (who pitched on Sunday,) will get four (days off). Giordano will get three," Air Academy coach Bernie Moncallo said. "I don't want to reveal too much, but we'll be OK."
If anybody can be trusted to make the right adjustment, it's Moncallo -- who won a state title with Cheyenne Mountain in 2009. He tweaked his lineup on Monday, moving Kimbrow from sixth to fourth in the lineup to load up on righthanders against Discovery Canyon lefty Jeff Kooser.
That worked out well for Kimbrow and the Kadets, not so much for the team and car that came out on the other end.