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Friendly rivals: Cheyenne Mountain and Air Academy are respectful foes in baseball
Cheyenne Mountain ought to be familiar with Lakewood's All-Star Park. On Friday, the Indians will be playing their eighth game at the quaint park that is modeled after Coors Field in a stretch of 30 games dating back to last year's state tournament. During that stretch, the Indians have played on their home field just 10 times.
If there was ever such a thing as a “friendly” rivalry, this would be it.
Most teams that routinely battle for city supremacy and find themselves facing off for the third time in three weeks might want blood – but not Air Academy and Cheyenne Mountain baseball.
The Kadets and Indians will collide Friday at Lakewood's All-Star Park in the state semifinals, but afterward, the two coaches will share a car ride back to Colorado Springs.
“One of us will be pretty happy and the other one is going to be pretty upset,” Cheyenne Mountain coach Mark Swope said of carpooling with friend Bernie Moncallo.
The pair will team up to coach a club team in Denver after Friday's game. That team will practice again Saturday, but, of course, either Swope or Moncallo will be coaching for a state championship. Either way, they’re coming home together.
“When I moved to Colorado Springs in 2003, Mark was one of the first people I met through club baseball and we’ve been close friends ever since,” said Moncallo, who had dinner with Swope earlier this week. “I just have a ton of respect for him and his team.”
Swope was Moncallo’s assistant at Cheyenne Mountain during the 2009 state-title run. Then, Swope took the reins and won his own championship last year.
But the past seems like decades ago after the two clashes Cheyenne Mountain and Air Academy have engaged in this month.
The Kadets got out of the gate early in the 4A Metro title game May 5, beating the Indians 9-5 on their field. Cheyenne returned the favor 13 days later with a 10-5 rout in the first round of the 4A state tournament.
Friday's rubber match will be the most important. The loser will be eliminated, while the winner will be within two Saturday victories of a state title.
“In this third game we’ve got to come out with some fire in our eyes and jump on them early,” Cheyenne Mountain catcher Jerry Lacayo said. “We have to play controlled and not let the hype of who we’re playing affect us.”
Lacayo was the X factor in the second game, going 2-for-3 with five RBIs to lead Cheyenne Mountain. Moncallo sees Lacayo as the vital player that his pitchers must shut down in the rubber match.
“The key really is Jerry, because he’s a dangerous hitter and an emotional leader for them; when he is playing well he sparks their entire team,” Moncallo said.
The Kevins – Megyeri and Giordano – will be charged with providing Air Academy with the pitching that would be needed to win a state championship.
“Things just kind of fell apart in that second game,” said Megyeri, who has started both games against the Indians. “We need to keep them off balance.”
Swope is confident the result will be the same as it was last Friday.
“If we play our game we will be fine,” Swope said. “Whoever loses this game is going to feel like there’s a dagger stuck in them.”