GREELEY — For years, Eaton has taught its pitchers the mystical knuckle-curve, and with that dominated Class 3A baseball to the tune of eight state titles.
“Hey, if it’s going to work for them,” Holy Family coach Eric Nakayama said. “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.”
Austin Brown utilized the pitch to baffle the Reds’ bats, and then watched his offense explode for six runs in the top of the seventh to break a 2-2 tie and win their second straight Class 3A title 8-2 Saturday at Butch Butler Field.
It was also the third title in four years for Holy Family and puts a cap on a magical 2013-14 for the Tigers, who also captured the boys and girls state basketball titles in March.
“It feels incredible to do it for these seniors and send them out as champions,” Brown said. “I’ll have three rings after this and all the hard work and to have both is such an incredible feeling, I can’t even explain it.”
Said senior Devlin Granberg: “The whole year has been absolutely incredible. We’ve been on Cloud Nine the whole time and I couldn’t ask for a greater group of guys.”
After Eaton tied the score in the bottom of the sixth on Ryan Koehler’s sacrifice fly to left, Holy Family — which had to be beaten twice on Saturday — answered right back in the seventh.
Matt Erb singled to center with one out. The next man up, Conor Stanley, appeared to ground into what could have been an inning-ending double play, but Reds shortstop Matt Burkart dropped the toss from Jake Mondragon and everybody was safe.
“In the end, it’s a little kids game,” Eaton coach Jim Danley said. “Catch and throw, and if you make mistakes in that area, I don’t care if you’re playing in the big leagues or wherever you are, it impacts your ability to win.”
Erb was nearly picked off of trying to steal third by pitcher Lane Grieman, and escaped the pickle when the Reds threw the ball away. After a walk to Brown, Granberg stepped in with the bases loaded.
“It was a first pitch fastball, a little low, but right at the knees,” said Granberg, who will play next season at Creighton in Omaha. “I just tried to stay loose in that at-bat because it is easy to tighten up because of the nerves in a big spot, and I got a great result.”
Granberg delivered a two-run single to left that was the first of four straight hits for the Tigers. Zach Trombley followed with a single, then Zach Dedin (who finished 3 for 4) roped a double to the left-centerfield gap that scored two and Jacob Tinnon rounded out the barrage with a base hit back up the middle.
Is hitting contagious?
“I think we showed it in that last inning,” Granberg said. “Everybody came up with big hit after big hit and just kept it rolling and that momentum is just incredible.”
It was all that Brown needed to finish off the Reds. Although he walked six, including two in the seventh, Brown didn’t allow a hit after the fourth inning.
“Once I got through the first two innings, I really started settling down and really had my off-speed stuff working,” said Brown, who struck out the side in the fifth inning. “Credit to Chris (McManus) behind the plate for blocking all my stuff and let my unbelievable defense take care of the rest of it for me.”
For Nakayama, who sage/sarcastic advice from those around him was to not screw it up, the postgame Gatorade bath was a long time coming.
“Awesome, it’s just awesome,” Nakayama said.
Said the legendary Danley of the Tigers approach: “Our hats are off to Holy Family, they played great. People all over the state are saying that these guys are as good as anybody in 4A, 5A or whatever. It’s just a relentless lineup and they don’t give you any room out there.”
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Holy Family 8, Eaton 2
At Butch Butler Field (Greeley)
Holy Family (24-1) 002 000 6 — 8 13 1
Eaton (23-2) 001 001 0 — 2 3 3
W — Brown (6-0). L — Grieman (4-1).
Holy Family hitting (ab-r-h-rbi) — Conor Stanley 4-1-1-0, Austin Brown 3-0-0-1, Alex Comeaux 0-2-0-0, Devlin Granberg 4-1-2-3, Zach Trombley 4-1-2-1, Zach Dedin 4-1-3-2, Jacob Tinnon 4-0-2-1, Chris McManus 4-0-1-0, Joe Coufal 0-0-0-0, Kennedy Phillips 2-1-1-0, Matt Erb 4-1-1-0. Totals 33-8-13-8. 2B — Phillips, Trombley, McManus, Dedin. SB — Erb.
Eaton hitting (ab-r-h-rbi) — Jake Nelson 3-0-1-0, Jake Mondragon 3-0-0-1, Matt Burkart 3-0-0-0, Colton Lind 2-0-1-0, JT Mossberg 0-1-0-0, Ryan Koehler 2-0-0-1, Lane Grieman 3-0-0-0, Brady Tedesco 2-0-0-0, Bryce Dyer 2-0-0-0, Joe Mondragon 2-1-1-0. Totals 22-2-3-2. SB — Nelson.
Holy Family pitching (ip-h-r-er-bb-so) — Brown 7-3-2-0-6-4.
Eaton pitching (ip-h-r-er-bb-so) — Tedesco 3+-6-2-1-0-3; Grieman 4-7-6-6-2-3.