DENVER — It's been a year to remember for the sports programs at Silver Creek High School, and only a handful of others in the state have seen the kind of success from fall to spring that the Raptors had in 2016-17.
They say all good things must come to an end, though, and that was the case Tuesday as the SCHS baseball team, the last standing for the Longmont school, saw their season halted in the Class 4A state tournament at the hands of Air Academy, 6-3, at Machebeuf High School in Denver.
The Northern League champions in football, basketball and baseball — and athletic director Marty Tonjes could tell you exactly how many others — were led by a group of seniors that put their stamp on Raptors athletics, to be true.
It's a group head coach Mike Apodaca has gotten to work with across the board, and he was more than thankful after the Raptors started packing up the dugout for the final time.
"We may have had some groups in the past go deeper into things when it was all over, but speaking to our three major sports that I've been involved with, Final Four (football), Sweet 16 (basketball) and Elite 8 (baseball) ... it says wonders about the group," said Apodaca, who is also the head football coach. "They took our school and our programs to another level."
Speaking to the baseball team specifically, the program has seen a nice change in four years. In 2013-14, the Silver Creek varsity team went 6-13 but by the very next year they had a winning season at 10-9. That trend continued over the past two years, as did their advancement into the state playoffs.
With the talents of the underclassmen, there's a lot of hope for the future, too. But Dylan Ordway was full of pride when talking about the group of seniors helping carry the team.
"It meant a ton to make it this far, and I can just remember as a freshman winning like two games to now as a senior making it to state, there's not much else you could ask for," said Ordway, who started Tuesday's game on the hill against the Kadets. "It's nice to put our school back on the map in baseball. That was important for us."
The seniors may not think too fondly of Air Academy, which for the second straight season knocked them out of playoff contention.
Last year, it was in district play. This year, after Air Academy gave Golden its second loss of the double-elimination tournament, the Kadets made it two-for-two by cranking out 11 hits, getting good pitching from starter Sam Cregan, and committing just one error.
"They've been our nemesis a little bit, and they're a quality group. Today it was about who played the better baseball, and they did," Apodaca said. "In all three phases of the game, they performed at a higher level consistently."
Problems for Silver Creek came as soon as the very first inning. Leadoff hitters George Ramirez (1-for-2, two runs scored) and Cole Winn (3-for-4) got aboard via a walk and a single, respectively, and moved up a base on a passed ball but the Raptors could not get them home. In the third, Cade Call and Spencer Rich were stranded in a similar situation after Air Academy (19-5) had managed to score three runs in the top of the frame.
Ramirez finally was able to come home in the fifth inning on Call's single, but the Raptors didn't get an extra-base hit until Winn's double in the seventh. Call drove in another pair with a double to make it 6-3, but relief pitcher Grant Shandy got two fly ball outs to end the game.
The Raptors had three errors in the game and also didn't have an ounce of luck. In the fifth, Ramirez almost made a spectacular catch in the outfield running from gap-to-gap, but the hit scored a run. In the same inning, Ordway got a glove on a hit up the middle that could have been fielded by the second baseman — a natural, no-fault reaction — that ended bouncing the other way and getting a run home.
"Every inning, we didn't give them easy innings," Ordway said. "We got guys in scoring position, and they just magically worked out of it. Credit to them to get out of those kinds of situations."
Air Academy joined Evergreen, Thompson Valley and Valor Christian in the 4A Final Four — played Friday and Saturday at Metro State's Regency Athletic Complex.
Air Academy 6, Silver Creek 3
At Machebeuf HS
Air Academy003 030 0 — 6 11 1
Silver Creek000 010 2 — 3 9 3
W — Cregan. L — Ordway.
Silver Creek hitting (ab-r-h-rbi) — Ramirez 2-2-1-0, Winn 4-0-3-0, R. Olinger 0-1-0-0, Browne 4-0-0-0, Call 4-0-2-3, Rich 4-0-1-0, Bicknell 4-0-1-0, Smedley 3-0-1-0, Gambirasi 2-0-0-0, Gregory 1-0-0-0-0, Elting 3-0-0-0. 2B —Winn, Call. SB —Call, Rich.
Silver Creek pitching (ip-h-r-er-bb-so) — Ordway 4.2-10-6-4-3-1, Olinger 1.1-1-0-0-1-0, Kramer 0.2-0-0-0-0-1, VanDyke 0.1-0-0-0-0-1.