BOULDER — As longtime Front Range League foes, the Fairview and Rocky Mountain baseball teams have been tussling ever since the Knights' SJ Mousseau can remember, through all levels of high school baseball.
It comes as no surprise that they both have respectable summer American Legion programs, as well, and that rivalry added a new chapter to it on Thursday at the Legion A Elite state tournament.
With each team looking to advance to 2-0 in the double-elimination tournament and really put a foot forward in the quest toward the summer state title, Fairview managed to fend off several Rocky rallies to hold serve on its home field, 12-10. It was every bit as close — and every bit offense-friendly — as the score would indicate, too.
Fairview gained a 10-4 lead after five innings of play, but Rocky came back as only Rocky can — almost entirely erasing that advantage one half-inning later to make it 10-9. The key for Fairview was to keep the foot on the gas pedal, and it did by adding two runs in the bottom of the sixth to provide yet another more comfortable cushion.
Mousseau, a graduated senior headed for Barstow College, locked down the final three innings allowing just one more run, and the Knights will play the Mountain Rangers on Friday for a chance to guarantee themselves a spot in the championship.
Ryan Caraballo pitched six effective innings while Rocky Mountain countered with several arms, and the Knights pounded out 14 hits to get the win.
"What can I say ... it's always great when we can beat Rocky," Mousseau said after earning the save, allowing three hits and striking out one batter. "They are always just such a tough opponent, and it's great to beat them just because we have a lot of respect for their program so much.
"The beginning of the summer, keeping leads was a big issue. Now I feel like we're excelling, and seeing success at a good time of the year."
The Knights needed their pitchers to eat up some innings and set themselves up for the weekend, and Caraballo and Mousseau met the challenge after Tyler Carpenter pitched seven innings of Wednesday's 11-inning melee against Windsor.
Against the defending Class 5A state champions, that was a tall task and it looked even more daunting after the Lobos (1-1) gained an early 2-0 lead in the first inning.
Yet it was Fairview who put the first crooked number up on the scoreboard, plating five runs in the fifth inning aided by three straight two-out hits by Cole Carrigan, Will Mossa and Danny Sheridan.
The Lobos had a bat-the-lineup-around sixth, but Mousseau didn't walk any batters while letting his defense make the outs the rest of the way. He induced three ground balls and two infield pop-ups as part of the performance.
"Once I got out on the mound for the ninth I was pretty nervous," Mousseau said. "But then I just thought, screw it, I'm just going to pitch and do my thing. What's the worst that could happen?"
"The first two games of this tournament are pretty nerve-wracking, but I feel like we're on a roll, and that we can win this thing."
JD Jones drove in three runs for Fairview, which will take to its home field again Friday at 3:30 p.m. The Mountain Rangers are also 2-0 after beating Eaglecrest 14-4 on Thursday.
The winner of the state tournament advances to next week's Western Regional in Denver.
American Legion A Elite state tournament
Fairview 12, Rocky Mountain 10
At Fairview HS
Rocky Mountain 200 025 100 — 10 12 4
Fairview 020 262 00x — 12 14 1
W — Caraballo.
Fairview hitting (ab-r-h-rbi) — Mossa 5-1-1-2, Sheridan 5-0-1-1, B. Jones 4-1-2-0, Carpenter 4-1-1-0, Willemsen 4-3-2-0, Erickson 4-1-2-1, J. Jones 3-3-2-3, Haensly 4-1-2-2, Carrigan 5-1-1-1. Totals 38-12-14-10. 2B — Sheridan, Willemsen, Haensly.
Fairview pitching (ip-h-r-er-bb-so) — Caraballo 6-9-9-9-1-4, Mousseau 3-3-1-1-0-1.