LOVELAND — Even with one of the state's strongest pitching staffs and a penchant for timely hitting, the Silver Creek baseball team still was never a lock to win the Northern League in 2017.
As the logjam atop the conference standings began to dissipate, the Raptors emerged as the frontrunner among three or four teams with a shot. They put themselves in a great position with a late-season win streak. Still, the Raptors' bid for sole possession of the Northern League championship came down to their final game of the regular season.
Facing the reigning league champs at Mountain View High School on Monday, the Raptors fell 3-1 and failed to clinch the sole title. They likely have done enough to win the league via a tiebreaker, but with the other top league contenders still with two games to play, the Raptors will have to sit back and wait to see how and when that will happen.
"They're good and they played more like a conference champion today than we did," Raptors head coach Mike Apodaca said. "It's still huge any time you come out of the Northern with a league title, which I think due to tiebreaker we will end up with. The opportunity to host, which we're hoping for, is just enormous. And honestly, our backs were against the wall after our last Longmont loss and we worked hard to get back into it."
The Raptors (13-6, 11-3 Northern), who moved up to No. 2 in the Class 4A statewide rankings when the CHSAANow.com poll was released on Monday, locked up at least a share of the Northern League title when they beat Mountain View (14-5, 10-4 Northern) in the series opener on Thursday.
The most conference wins that No. 8 Northridge (13-4, 9-3 Northern) and Thompson Valley (13-4, 9-3 Northern), who end the regular season with a two-game series against one another this week, is 11. Silver Creek swept Northridge and split with Thompson Valley during the regular season, so only a Thompson Valley sweep would create a tie at the top that would have to go past the first tiebreaker rule (head-to-head) to the second-tier tiebreaker.
The Northern's second tiebreaker is how each team did against the next best team in the standings. That should end up being Mountain View, against whom the Raptors split but Thompson Valley lost both.
Monday's game started well with a Raptors run in the top of the first inning but they lost the lead when an error led to a two-run third and the Mountain Lions tacked on another in the fifth. The Raptors had runners at the corners with one out in the seventh but couldn't tie the game.
The Raptors enter the postseason having won five of their final six regular-season games.
"The kids earned it and it's a zero-zero game once we get into districts," Apodaca said. "Hopefully we'll use this next week and a half to fine tune some things."
Mountain View 3, Silver Creek 1
At Mountain View H.S.
Silver Creek (13-6, 11-3)100 000 0 — 1 5 2
Mountain View (14-5, 10-4) 002 010 0 — 3 6 1
W — Thomas. L — Ordway.
Silver Creek hitting (ab-r-h-rbi) — Ramirez 3-0-1-0, Winn 3-1-1-0, Browne 3-0-2-0, Call 2-0-1-0, Rich 3-0-0-1, Bicknell 3-0-0-0, Kramer 3-0-0-0, Smedley 2-0-0-0, Gregory 3-0-0-0. Totals 25-1-5-1. 2B — Winn. SB —Winn.
Mountain View hitting (ab-r-h-rbi) — Norsen 3-2-2-0, Mendoza 3-1-2-0, Jimenez 3-0-0-0, Thomas 3-0-1-2, Nichols 3-0-0-0, Vondy 3-0-0-0, M. Felton 3-0-0-0, Baumann 2-0-1-0, TJ Felton 2-0-0-0. Totals 25-3-6-2. 2B — Norsen. SB — Norsen, Mondoza, M. Felton.
Silver Creek pitching (ip-h-r-er-bb-so) — Ordway 5-6-3-2-1-2, Gambirasi 1-0-0-0-1-0.
Mountain View pitching (ip-h-r-er-bb-so) — Thomas 7-5-1-1-4-6.