PUEBLO — Lyons has never won a state championship in baseball but this year's club came closer than any Lions team before it, putting together an improbable run that ended just two wins short of a title.
That run came to an end on Saturday at Runyon Field Sports Complex when the 10th-seeded Lions fell 7-2 to No. 11 Rocky Ford in the Class 2A state semifinals. The Lions were outplayed by a hotter team and came up just short of their programs' first championship.
For a team that won just six games last season, however, just being one of the last four teams competing in late May was a satisfying enough consolation.
"I think we had a good chance of beating that team but we just had a weird day and we weren't hitting the ball in the right places," Lions junior catcher Leif Klopsen said. "But it's been a great season and we've come a long way. I don't think Lyons has ever been this far and we are all proud that we were able to do what we did this year."
Even with starting pitcher Austen Clark on the mound, the Lions (19-4) fell behind early when the Meloneers (18-6) jumped on them for three runs in the top of the first inning. The Lions responded with two runs on three hits in the second inning, with Dawson Kelly scoring Keegan Bean with a sacrifice fly and Brandon Sanders singling home Joe McCain.
The Meloneers scored three more runs, two unearned, in the third and added a seventh run in the fourth inning to pull away. After collecting four hits and five baserunners in the first two innings, and with Sanders allowing just one run in 4 1/3 innings of relief, the Lions did not have another hit over the final five frames.
"Rocky Ford played a good game," Rosales said. "We were hitting them, but the thing is we were hitting it right to them. You can't win games when you're doing that. They have a couple really good players who made a lot of plays. But we fought and we're proud of our guys."
In a game that saw neither team have an extra-base hit, Sanders, Bean, McCain and Justin Lear combined for the Lions' four singles against Rocky Ford starter Andre Montano. The Meloneers had seven singles.
While Saturday's season-ending loss was disappointing for the Lions, who outscored their first two state tournament opponents by a combined 13-3 scored despite entering the bracket as the 10th seed, their prospects for a repeat run in 2018 remain bright. The Lions had only two seniors on the roster this season and will lose just one starter to graduation.
"These guys have a lot of heart and they're hungry," Rosales said. "I told them not to hang their heads because they had a great year and that we'll be back."
The Meloneers went on to lose 6-0 to top-seeded Paonia in the 2A state championship game on Saturday afternoon.
Rocky Ford 7, Lyons 2
At Runyon Sports Complex
Rocky Ford 303 100 0 — 7 7 1
Lyons 020 000 0 — 2 4 2
W — Montano. L — Clark.
Rocky Ford hitting (ab-r-h-rbi) — Montano 4-0-0-0, Rodriguez 3-2-2-0, Garcia 3-2-1-0, Cardenas 4-2-1-2, Venem 3-0-0-1, Mendoza 2-0-1-2, Aragon 2-0-1-1, Jaramillo 3-0-0-0, Valdez 3-1-1-0. Totals 27-7-7-6. SB — Cardenas 2, Valdez.
Lyons hitting (ab-r-h-rbi) — Sanders 3-0-1-1, Owens 3-0-0-0, Lear 3-0-1-0, Clark 3-0-0-0, Klopsen 3-0-0-0, Bean 3-1-1-0, McCain 3-1-1-0, Brett 3-0-0-0, Kelly 2-0-0-1. Totals 26-2-4-2.
Rocky Ford pitching (ip-h-r-er-bb-so) — Montano 7-4-2-2-0-7.
Lyons pitching (ip-h-r-er-bb-so) — Clark 2.2-6-6-4-1-1, Sanders 4.1-1-1-1-2-4.