LONGMONT — Silver Creek's Cole Winn was going to have a much shorter drive home this year no matter what, but he distinctly recalled on Saturday the Raptors' trip home from Canon City in 2016 after a promising team had fallen in the first round of the Class 4A regional tournament.
"That was a long ride, and honestly it sucked," Winn said, also reminiscing of how much promise the Raptors had shown last year.
Well, this year winning the Northern League title got them home field for what is arguably the toughest day of the entire season, and the Raptors were able to scratch and claw their way into the 4A state tournament with a pair of elimination game victories.
It wasn't easy against either Lewis-Palmer or Holy Family and in fact the Rangers had Silver Creek on the ropes. But Max Browne's three-run home run in the bottom of the seventh brought SCHS back from the ashes in a 7-6, eight-inning win, advancing them to the regional final against the Tigers, who knocked off Northridge in incredible fashion by scoring five runs in their final at-bat for an 11-8 win.
It was truly Winn-two-or-else for Silver Creek. The junior pitcher, one of the top ranked 2018 pitchers in the country, closed the door on LP and wanted the ball against the Tigers. He got it, and delivered 11 strikeouts in five innings to help the Raptors to a 8-3 victory — and a spot in the in the final 8-team tournament that will play out over the next two weekends.
"I told (head coach Mike Apodaca) that this is my start and that I wouldn't let him down," Winn said after striking out 15 batters in seven total innings Saturday. "I feel like I didn't. I attacked inside to start and had my eye on the outside after that. My slider was working, my change-up, so I just attacked the zone and good things happened."
"It was awesome to see the team come through in the first game. Down three runs in the last inning, no one was really hopeful but Max lifted us up."
Winn would be the first to tell you that both wins were as a result of the play of the entire team. After Browne's exhilarating tying blast, Silver Creek still needed to push across a run in the eighth. Chris Smedley led off with a double and got to third after a Dylan Kramer walk and a Nick Gambirasi sacrifice bunt. George Ramirez was intentionally walked to force an out at any base, but Winn singled past third base to provide the winning run.
The Raptors (15-6) then used seven extra-base hits to gain a big advantage on Holy Family (13-8). In a five-run fourth frame, Wes Gregory provided a pinch-hit double that scored two and Ramirez doubled to bring in another, as well.
Holy Family showed the kind of grit that head coach Marc Cowell's team has been playing with all season, getting to Winn for three straight hits in the fifth, but Kramer and Andrew VanDyke were able to minimize damage for the Raptors to close it out.
Cowell's Tigers won their first ever 4A playoff game after jumping up from 3A three seasons ago, and they did so in a wild way. Trailing Northridge 8-6 to begin the top of the seventh, the Tigers sent 10 to the plate off three different pitchers. Still, it took until the Tigers had two outs before Jordan Closen, Phillip Neill and Collin Kringlen had a sequence of good at-bats to bring runners home.
"That was one of our targets, that we hadn't won a playoff game since our move. The next step was to win that championship game and it just wasn't meant to be today," Cowell said. "Silver Creek did a good job on the mound, and we left a couple up that they did not miss.
"We were hoping to run his pitch count up and keep it close, but unfortunately it was 7-1 by the time he came out. Too much to overcome today."
Silver Creek 8, Holy Family 3
At Silver Creek HS
Holy Family000 012 0 — 3 7 0
Silver Creek101 501 x — 8 13 1
W — Winn. L — Becker.
Holy Family hitting (ab-r-h-rbi) — Miller 4-1-1-0, Rode 2-0-0-0, Callaway 1-1-1-0, Sasser 0-0-0-0, Becker 3-0-1-0, Clingman 4-0-0-1, Closen 3-1-1-0, Neill 3-0-1-1, Kringlen 3-0-1-1, Siefkin 2-0-0-0, Coufal 1-0-0-0, Elliott 2-0-0-0, Delgado 1-0-1-0. Totals 29-3-7-3.
Silver Creek hitting (ab-r-h-rbi) — Ramirez 4-2-2-1, Winn 3-3-3-1, Carlaugh 0-0-0-0, Browne 3-0-2-2, Elting 0-0-0-0, Call 3-0-1-1, Rich 4-0-2-1, Bicknell 3-1-0-0, Smedley 3-1-1-0, Kramer 2-0-0-0, Gregory 1-1-1-2, Gambirasi 3-0-1-0. Totals 29-8-13-8. 2B — Ramirez 2, Browne, Gregory. 3B —Winn 2, Browne.
Holy Family pitching (ip-h-r-er-bb-so) — Becker 3.1-7-5-5-2-1, Elliott 2.2-6-3-3-1-3.
Silver Creek pitching (ip-h-r-er-bb-so) — Winn 5-3-1-1-0-11, Kramer 1-2-2-1-1-1, VanDyke 1-2-0-0-1-1.
Silver Creek 7, Lewis-Palmer 6
At Silver Creek HS
Lewis-Palmer100 050 00 — 6 8 4
Silver Creek012 000 31 — 7 8 1
W — Winn.
Silver Creek hitting (ab-r-h-rbi) — Ramirez 4-0-1-0, Winn 5-2-1-1, Browne 4-1-1-3, Call 4-0-1-0, Rich 3-1-0-0, Bicknell 3-0-1-0, Smedley 3-1-2-1, Kramer 2-0-0-0, Ketchum 1-0-0-0, Gambirasi 2-2-0-0.
Silver Creek pitching (ip-h-r-er-bb-so) — Dylan Ordway 5-4-2-1-3-2, Gambirasi 2-3-4-3-3-1, Winn 2-1-0-0-0-4.
Holy Family 11, Northridge 8
At Silver Creek HS
Holy Family013 200 5 — 11 11 3
Northridge142 100 0 — 8 5 2
W — Clingman.
Holy Family hitting (ab-r-h-rbi) — Miller 4-3-3-0, Rode 5-1-1-0, Becker 3-2-1-0, Clingman 2-3-1-0, Closen 4-1-3-3, Neill 2-0-0-2, Kringlen 5-0-2-2, Siefkin 2-0-0-0, Brassil 2-1-0-0, Elliott 2-0-0-0, Coufal 1-0-0-0.
Holy Family pitching (ip-h-r-er-bb-so) — Siefkin 1.2-4-5-4-2-1, Clingman 5.1-1-3-2-7-5.