LONGMONT — For a team coming into the softball regionals with a 16-3 record, Saturday was not supposed to be a case of 'survive and advance' for Silver Creek.
But the Class 4A Region 7 field proved to be much more difficult than the Raptors might have imagined, and it took to the last girls on the bench for SCHS to squeak out two wins in three games at Garden Acres Park and move on to state for the seventh straight season.
Seventeen girls suited up for Creek, and head coach Ryan Beavers was able to use every last one of them — though perhaps he wasn't ever intending on it.
But after falling in the regional title game to Air Academy by an 8-6 score and finding themselves in a tight one against Windsor for the right to move on, Beavers and the Raptors got three huge pinch hits from Makayla Garcia, Morgan Cook and Maya Amidon in a sixth-run sixth inning, propelling them to an 8-4 win.
Kendra Green pitched well enough to win without her best stuff, but she also went 3-for-3 at the plate against the Wizards. Emma Flynn drove in three runs, too, providing the team with a collective sigh of relief.
"I am so flipping proud of this team," said Green, who threw into the seventh and struck out seven for the win. "We were down two (to Windsor) and we came back as a team. It wasn't one player that did all the work; we did it equally and we picked each other up when any one of us failed."
"After we lost the second game, we still thought we were fine because we had beat Windsor already in the morning, but those first couple innings were tough," Flynn, a junior, added. "I think we know if we play as a team, we'll win as a team."
After beating 26th-seeded Windsor (11-11) in the morning rather handily, Silver Creek couldn't keep 10 seed Air Academy off the base paths. Despite home runs from Lucy Scott, Dana Dwyer and Jetta Nannen, the Kadets were able to respond each time the hosts scored, including two solo home runs of their own in the fifth and seventh innings.
The Raptors had roughed up Windsor's Tiana Spangler, a freshman, the first game but had to re-adjust to her put-you-to-sleep change-up after seeing a fast Air Academy hurler, and the Wizards carried a 2-0 lead into the fourth frame.
Flynn tied it at 2-2 with a fourth-inning single, Makenna Wright made a huge diving catch in right field to save two runs from scoring in the fifth, and then the Raptors had eight straight girls reach base in the sixth to find a little bit of magic.
Garcia was inserted in place of Scott with a 1-2 count and her team leading 4-2, and it paid off as she brought home Lee Ann Kuckuk; Cook then hit a three-run home run in her only at-bat of the day. Those runs were needed as Windsor scored a couple more in the seventh frame.
"She made me look smart," Beavers said with a laugh. "Same thing with Morgan Cook. The one kid who has been sitting all day, she comes in and does that? That's huge to maintain focus and make something happen.
"Do you want to be 2-0 on the day? Obviously. But you get that one extra game to get better, and it may help you in the long run."
"After Makayla hit and then Morgan hit that home run, it was the best feeling ever," Flynn said.
Also part of the Region 7 field was Holy Family, and the Tigers played tough all day long. They narrowly lost to Air Academy 3-2, and then had Windsor on the ropes with a 4-3 score going to the sixth. It was then WHS put together a couple strong at-bats to pull out a 13-6 win, and the Tigers ended the season 11-10.
Class 4A Region 7 championship
At Garden Acres Park
Air Academy 031 210 1 — 8 8 0
Silver Creek 013 020 0 — 6 9 2
L — Dana Dwyer.
Silver Creek hitting (ab-r-h-rbi) — Kayla Harper 3-1-0-0, Jetta Nannen 3-2-1-2, Dana Dwyer 4-2-4-2, Mallory Granger 0-0-0-0, Casey Wagner 3-0-1-0, Kendra Green 3-0-0-0, Emma Flynn 4-0-0-1, Lucy Scott 3-1-2-1, Makenna Wright 2-0-0-0, Rebecca Dunn 3-0-1-0. Totals 28-6-9-6.
Silver Creek pitching (ip-h-r-er-bb-so) — Dwyer 3.1-5-6-3-1-1, Nannen 3.2-3-2-2-0-4.
Class 4A Region 7 state qualifier
Windsor 200 000 2 — 4 9 0
Silver Creek 000 206 x — 8 10 0
W — Kendra Green.
Silver Creek hitting (ab-r-h-rbi) — Harper 4-0-0-0, Nannen 4-0-2-0, Dwyer 3-2-0-0, Wagner 3-1-0-0, Green 3-2-3-1, Lee Ann Kuckuk 0-0-0-0, Flynn 3-1-2-3, Scott 2-0-0-0, Makayla Garcia 1-1-1-1, Wright 2-0-0-0, Morgan Cook 1-1-1-3, Dunn 2-0-0-0, Maya Amidon 1-0-1-0. Totals 29-8-10-8.
Silver Creek pitching (ip-h-r-er-bb-so) — Green 6.1-8-4-4-3-7, Nannen 0.2-1-0-0-0-0.
Class 4A Region 7 first round
Windsor 000 002 0 — 2 6 2
Silver Creek 001 044 x — 9 14 1