AURORA — There was a reassuring feeling among the tears for the Silver Creek American Legion A summer baseball team on Monday evening at Eaglecrest High School.
That feeling was the Raptors will be back as a force in Class 4A baseball come spring.
Not a team this summer got off easy against Silver Creek's top squad, and Fort Morgan can attest to that after playing the Raptors three times over the course of the Legion A state tournament. In the end, however, the Mustangs were able to hold on for dear life to a 6-5 victory in the championship game for that elusive tourney title that caps the season.
One could have not watched a single inning but the seventh frame of Monday's contest, and coach Ryan Schram would say that is all you needed to know about the team. The Raptors needed three runs to tie the game at 6-all heading into the inning, and they got that tying run to third base before Trevor Shurtleff got Rex Olinger to ground out hard to the hot corner for the final out.
"At the end of the day, you're just proud of them for what they accomplished this summer, and at the end we battled," said Schram, whose team out-hit Fort Morgan 11-7. "This summer, you saw them become a team that cheered for each other and brought each other up. They learned that we could make it to that final game. We can make that Saturday or Sunday game with the guys we have."
In a game where timing was everything, the Mustangs had just a handful more key hits and defensive plays. Fort Morgan took a 5-2 lead in the fifth inning with a string of four singles and a walk contributing, and after Silver Creek squandered a chance for more than the one run it scored in the sixth the Mustangs plated another run on a two-out wild pitch.
That turned out to be the deciding run.
Trailing 6-3 in their final at-bat, Max Browne was hit by a pitch and Lucas Bush singled. Tanner Olinger doubled down the right field line to make it 6-4, and Dylan Kramer followed with a sacrifice fly to make it 6-5. Olinger went to third base on a single by Chris Smedley, but the Raptors just couldn't push that tying run across.
"This hurts because it did mean a lot, but it just sometimes doesn't turn out the way you want it," said George Ramirez, who went 1-for-4. "We know we could have played just a bit better and it ended up falling short. "
Two key calls late in the game also tilted in Fort Morgan's favor — a fielder's interference call against Smedley in the fifth and an out call at home plate as Kramer was trying to score in the sixth on a Ramirez flyout.
The Raptors avoided elimination twice on Sunday, including a 9-2 victory over Fort Morgan that forced an extra day to the tournament. Dylan Ordway was named the tournament's top pitcher and Ramirez was awarded the tournament's top hitter. Fort Morgan's Nate Kage was the most valuable player.
"I loved the way we played Sunday, when we could have just rolled over," Ramirez said. "We just have to be consistent, and don't give anybody anything for free. I'm excited for spring."
American Legion A State Tournament
Fort Morgan 6, Silver Creek 5
At Eaglecrest HS
Silver Creek 020 001 2 — 5 11 0
Fort Morgan 002 031 x — 6 7 2
W — Kage. L — Gregory.
Silver Creek hitting (ab-r-h-rbi) — Elting 4-0-1-2, Ramirez 4-0-1-0, Browne 3-1-1-0, Bush 4-1-3-0, Gregory 4-0-0-0, T.Olinger 3-1-1-1, Kramer 2-1-1-1, Smedley 3-1-2-0, R. Olinger 3-0-1-0. Borrego 0-0-0-0. Totals 30-5-11-4. 2B —Bush, Kramer. SB —Browne.
Fort Morgan hitting (ab-r-h-rbi) — Garver 2-2-1-0, Shurtleff 3-1-0-0, Hamer 2-0-1-1, Kage 1-1-1-1, Tolson 0-0-0-0, Keller 2-1-1-1, Marquez 3-0-1-0, Breidenbach 3-0-1-1, Linker 3-1-1-0, Holbeck 2-0-0-0. Totals 21-6-7-4. SB —Garver 2, Hamer, Tolson.
Silver Creek pitching (ip-h-r-er-bb-so) — Carlough 2.1-2-2-2-4-3, Gregory 3.2-5-4-4-2-2.
Fort Morgan pitching (ip-h-r-er-bb-so) — Kage 5-8-3-2-2-2, Shurtleff 2-3-2-2-2-1.