THORNTON — After enduring a nightmarish first inning on the mound, Boulder senior Eli Langston figured the best he could do was to keep battling and hope his Panthers teammates could eventually fight back.

Langston did his part. And thanks to a dramatic grand slam from Ari Barnett in the sixth inning, the rest of the Boulder squad nearly did its part as well.

Unfortunately for the Panthers a golden opportunity was squandered in the seventh inning, and their comeback bid fell just short in a 6-5 loss Saturday in a Front Range League contest at Horizon.

“One thing that you can look at in the positive is that Eli was throwing strikes,” Boulder head coach Colt Sedbrook said. “No walks, no hit by pitches. (Horizon) earned it. That first inning was absolutely fantastic on their part.”

Langston appeared as if he was in for a long day after surrendering seven consecutive hits and eight overall in an opening frame that ended with the host Hawks leading 5-0. Yet the senior was able to settle in from there, and after surrendering a leadoff single in the second, Langston retired nine of the next 10 batters he faced before a giving way to Grant Dinkel after surrendering another leadoff single in the fifth.

“I just made sure I got it over the plate and let my defense do a lot the work,” Langston said. “I’m not the kind of pitcher who is going to throw it super-fast or blow it by them, but I’m definitely going to put it over the plate and let them work to get on base.”

Horizon extended its lead to 6-0 in the fifth before Boulder finally mounted a rally in the top of the sixth. Francis Lanzano got the Panthers on the board with an RBI single, but he made a critical out when he attempted to advance to second on an errant relay through.

Boulder, however, kept pressing, loading the bases on a Kelby Woodard single and consecutive walks before Barnett’s grand slam — the first varsity home run of his career — rallied the Panthers to within a run.

“Coach Sedbrook just said, ‘Get a pitch you can drive,'” Barnett said. “It was a little inside and elevated, and I was able to put a good swing on it.”

Dinkel held Horizon in check in the bottom of the sixth, and Boulder pinch-hitter Dylan Bialek kept the comeback hopes alive with a leadoff double in the top of the seventh.

A sacrifice bunt from leadoff hitter Andrew McCarthy put the tying run on third with one out, but the rally was snuffed as consecutive Boulder groundouts clinched the win for Horizon.

Despite watching his team’s comeback fall short, Sedbrook remains pleased with how his team has come together heading into a rivalry week with games at Monarch on Tuesday and Fairview on Thursday. Originally slated as a home game for Boulder, the Fairview game has been moved to the Knights’ home field due to the ongoing issues regarding the repairs of the backstop at Scott Carpenter Park, Boulder’s home diamond.

An announcement is expected Monday regarding the remainder of Boulder’s home slate, but at this point the chances of the Panthers playing on their home turf appear to be dimming.

“Playing these one-run games, that’s just baseball,” Sedbrook said. “You try to be perfect, but you can’t ask 16, 17, 18-year old kids to be perfect. But going into Monarch, we have to play better. We have to play highly-competitive baseball. And if we play highly-competitive baseball, we’re going to have a chance to hang with those teams.”

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Horizon 6, Boulder 5

At Horizon H.S.

Boulder 000 005 0 — 5 6 0

Horizon 500 010 X — 6 13 1

W — Jesse Garcia. L — Eli Langston. Sv — Hayden Schaefter.

Boulder hitting (ab-r-h-rbi) — Andrew McCarthy 3-1-1-0, Francis Lanzano 4-0-2-1, Luke Bukowski 4-0-0-0, Kelby Woodard 3-1-1-0, Isaac Parks 2-0-0-0, Dana Sullivan 0-1-0-0, Wyatt Linde 1-0-0-0, Connor Stowe 0-1-0-0, Ari Barnett 3-1-1-4, Sam Douglas 3-0-0-0, Montana Guegan 2-0-0-0, Dylan Bialek 1-0-1-0. Totals 26-5-6-5. 2B — McCarthy, Bialek. HR — Barnett (three on in 6th).

Horizon hitting (ab-r-h-rbi) — Isaac Gonzales 3-0-1-0, Tanner Nickeloff 1-0-0-0, Dominik Castiglione 4-1-1-0, Jordan Humphries 4-1-3-1, Tyler Moore 3-1-1-1, Austin Gussman 3-2-2-0, Hayden Schaefter 4-1-2-2, Ayden Karraker 2-0-1-1, Zach Day 2-0-1-0, JT Kretzel 0-0-0-0, Kaleb Hawkins 1-0-1-1, Jordan Hill 0-0-0-0. Totals 27-6-13-6. 2B — Schaefter. 3B — Humphries. SB — Hill, Gussman, Karraker.

Boulder pitching (ip-h-r-er-bb-so) — Eli Langston 4-11-6-6-0-3; Grant Dinkel 2-2-0-0-2-1.

Horizon pitching (ip-h-r-er-bb-so) — Jesse Garcia 6-5-5-5-3-5; Hayden Schaefter 1-1-0-0-0-0.