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Sunday, May 27, 2012

No rest for the state champs

Jeff Dahn        
Photo: Perfect Game

GREENWOOD VILLAGE, Colo. - Sunday morning broke cool and clear here in the southwest Denver suburbs, and a sense of celebration filled the air.

It had only been about 12 hours since Cherry Creek High School had won the Colorado Class 5A State Championship - the Bruins' first since 1999 - but a select group of players from that team were already gathering at their home-away-from-home: Tom McCollum Field on the Cherry Creek campus.

 The occasion wasn't a victory party but rather the second day of the inaugural Perfect Game Rocky Mountain Showcase, hosted by Cherry Creek and head coach Marc Johnson. The Creek players - and players from several other schools that also played state championship series games on Saturday - didn't have to be here, but they were just doing what they do best.

Among them was 6-foot-5, 217-pound right-hander/first baseman Derik Beauprez, who wrapped up his junior season at Creek in grand style. Beauprez was the star of the 6-0 championship game victory over Legend (Parker, Colo.) after throwing a one-hit, nine-strikeout shutout with a fastball that sat in the low 90s.

"It was just really good to get that eighth state championship," Beauprez said Sunday morning, referring to the number of titles Johnson has won at Creek in a 40-year career. "It was nice, because before the game we were just saying how we were going to do it for our coach and how this school could really use one. We were feeling really good about ourselves after the game, too."

Cherry Creek was the state runner-up in 2011, losing to archrival Regis Jesuit in the championship game. Creek beat Regis in an elimination game earlier on Saturday.

"It was really good to have our dog-pile this year," Beauprez said. "It was really bad to watch that team (dog-pile) last year because we felt like we worked so hard for it. This year we just did it and it was awesome."

What might have been even more "awesome" was watching the players from Creek show up at 8 a.m. on Sunday for the PG Rocky Mountain Showcase after what was undoubtedly a late night of celebrating. There was simply no other place they would rather be.

"It's a chance to play more baseball," Beauprez said with a wide smile. "It's nice to wake up and get out here and get some more baseball in right before the summer starts."

This was the first Perfect Game event Beauprez participated in, and his action Sunday was limited. But he had not gone unnoticed by PG's scouting staff and came into the event ranked the 176th top national prospect in the high school class of 2013.

"I like to see what other kind of competition is around," Beauprez said. "I like to see really dominant pitchers and stuff like that; it's pretty cool. There is a lot of talent around here, especially when we play in the summer and we get to travel around a lot."

Beauprez has also gained the ultimate recognition: He has been invited to attend this year's Perfect Game National Showcase at the Metrodome in Minneapolis June 14-18. The PG National is regarded as the most prestigious showcase event in the country, and 17 prospects that participated in the 2010 National were first round MLB draft picks out of high school in 2011.

"I'm really excited for Minneapolis," Beauprez said. "I've heard a lot of good things (about the PG National) and I'm really pumped for it." He will be joined at the PG National by Creek teammates RHP/3B/1B Griffin Jax and C/OF Lane Milligan.

Johnson, who has coached hundreds of players who went on to play NCAA Division I baseball and several others who went on to play in the big leagues, was asked how Beauprez will represent himself in Minneapolis, and he basically replied "no worries."

"I think he'll fit in well and I think the major coaches and scouts want him to be there and want to see him," Johnson said. "He's a very, very gifted young man. He's got a live right arm and he's an outstanding defensive first baseman, and he's being recruited nationally by virtually all the big programs in the country. ... He's got a chance to be something really special and he loves to play the game."

Johnson, who is also a scout in the Colorado Rockies organization, believes Beauprez will pitch at the next level, despite his prowess around the first base bag.

"As a professional scout, he's a really good first baseman but you don't find guys with that body and that arm (very often) and if he focuses there, he's going to make a lot of money," Johnson said.

Beauprez plays for Johnson in Cherry Creek's spring, summer and fall programs, all of which compete at a high level. Johnson's goal is to get the team an invitation to the PG WWBA World Championship in Jupiter, Fla., in late October, which would give Beauprez even more face time in front of college coaches and pro scouts if he hasn't made a college decision by then. He's in no real hurry.

"I'm going to wait until I get into the summer a little more and make a few visits here and there and kind of figure it out," Beauprez said.

In the meantime, there's a state championship to enjoy.

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