DENVER — The Silver Creek baseball team had two wins in mind in the first day of the Class 4A state baseball tournament, and after it was Nick Gambirasi and not staff ace Cole Winn that got the opening game victory against Thomas Jefferson on Monday, the Raptors appeared to be in great shape.
But defending champion Valor Christian and its talented pitching staff put the clamps on the Raptors hitting in the second game, turning any mistake from Winn and the defense that backed him up into a potentially game-changing scenario.
Those mistakes came in rainy fourth inning at Machebeuf High School, and a four-run frame that saw Winn use up most of his pitch count propelled Valor to a 6-3 win. The Raptors, with a 16-9 win over the Spartans, went 1-1 and will play Tuesday at 12:30 p.m. against the winner between Golden and Air Academy.
"At the end of the day, we still get a chance to make it to next weekend and we have to forget about this last one and just regroup a bit," said head coach Mike Apodaca, whose team pounded out 21 hits overall but saw all of those hits come in just four total innings of at-bats. "(Valor) was playing in the same conditions we were, and they handled it just a little bit better than us today. We didn't do the little things."
The two games for SCHS were played in completely different conditions, and in fact the second contest nearly was delayed by rain. But while there was no stoppage in play, the rain clearly affected Winn — who has been excellent all season.
In a 0-0 contest in which Valor Christian starter Josh Danyliw was also very good around the zone, Winn had trouble with his grip and it resulted in four walks in the inning and a handful of not-Winn-like wild pitches. The junior had entered the game with nine walks issued all season.
But that inning really started to go wayward with Joel Pierce's pop up in the infield that no one could get to leading off the frame. It was a hit on the board but a mental error that sprung Valor from the stalemate.
The Raptors scored three times in the bottom of the sixth as they strung together five singles and a walk, but Valor right fielder Ryan Barber made two huge plays in the inning the keep the Eagles ahead. He threw out Cade Call trying to score for the second out and then made a sliding grab on Chris Smedley's liner to get them out of the inning.
Valor added two runs with the help of another Silver Creek error in the seventh, providing the final score.
The Raptors still need just one win to get to next weekend's final four, thanks in large part to Gambirasi — who had only thrown 13 innings all year. He got the nod against the Spartans and pitched through the sixth, allowing five runs on eight hits but more importantly not walking a batter.
Silver Creek scored five times in the fifth, with George Ramirez and Winn producing back-to-back doubles, to take a 6-2 lead. The Spartans battled back to within 6-5 but SCHS locked in at the plate for 10 hits and 10 runs in the seventh inning to get the win.
"We put a lot of hits together at the right time and the defense did a good job for me," Gambirasi said. "I actually didn't know I was starting until after practice (Sunday), but I did everything I could to prep myself. I'm glad it worked out the way it did."
"Gambo, if there's anything that needs to be said, it's that I don't think he's pitched over 60 pitches in a game this year and he pitched us a near complete game," Apodaca added. "That's the kind of effort we're going to need (Tuesday). That and focusing on the little parts of the game."
Ramirez, Winn and Max Browne combined to go 9-for-14 with six runs and nine RBI in the opener.
Silver Creek 16, Thomas Jefferson 9
At Machebeuf HS
Silver Creek010 050 (10) — 16 15 2
Thomas Jefferson020 003 4 — 9 10 5
W — Gambirasi. L — Kimmel.
Silver Creek hitting (ab-r-h-rbi) — Ramirez 5-3-3-3, Winn 4-2-3-4, VanDyke 0-1-0-0, Browne 5-1-3-2, Olinger 0-0-0-0, Call 5-0-0-0, Rich 2-2-1-0, Bicknell 4-2-2-1, Smedley 4-2-0-0, Ketchum 3-1-1-1, Gregory 1-0-0-0, Elting 4-2-2-0. 2B —Winn 2, Browne 2, Ramirez, Ketchum. 3B —Rich, Bicknell. SB —Rich.
Silver Creek pitching (ip-h-r-er-bb-so) — Gambirasi 6-8-5-3-0-6, Dylan Kramer 0.2-2-4-4-3-2, Tanner Olinger 0.1-0-0-0-1-0.
Valor Christian 6, Silver Creek 3
At Machebeuf HS
Valor Christian 000 400 2 — 6 4 1
Silver Creek000 003 0 — 3 6 2
W — Danyliw. L — Winn.
Silver Creek hitting (ab-r-h-rbi) — Ramirez 4-1-1-0, Winn 2-0-1-0, Gregory 0-1-0-0, Browne 3-1-1-1, Call 3-0-1-0, Rich 3-0-1-1, Bicknell 1-0-1-0, Smedley 3-0-0-0, Gambirasi 2-0-0-0, Elting 3-0-0-0. SB —Ramirez.
Silver Creek pitching (ip-h-r-er-bb-so) — Winn 4-3-4-4-5-5, Carlough 3-1-2-0-1-2.