When the Silver Creek Raptors traveled to Las Vegas during spring break, one accomplishment they did together was working together to wake up at 5 a.m. and conquer the climb to the top of Lone Mountain.
“They collectively got each other up there and we got to see the sun rise over the Las Vegas valley,” Silver Creek coach Brad Steward said.
The climb was not easy, but the strength the team found inside themselves and how they worked together was what got them to the top on that early morning in March.
“At the beginning, it was a very early morning, and it made us know that we have to embrace that grind to get to the top,” Silver Creek’s Justin Swenson said. “We knew it would be beautiful when we get there.”
Since reaching the top of that mountain, Silver Creek has used that morning as an important lesson for the second half of the season. Now they look to climb one more mountain, this one being the state championship in the Class 4A state baseball tournament.
The Raptors began their quest for their first state title in the sport last weekend with three wins in Colorado Springs, to find themselves now in the driver’s seat for the final four this weekend. They began with an extra-inning walk-off versus Wheat Ridge, and then defeated Holy Family 11-7 for their second win over the Tigers in 2019. In their third game of the weekend, Silver Creek got another walk-off victory, this time beating the top seed Pueblo West 6-5 with an RBI single from Tanner Regan in the seventh inning.
Going 3-0 last week guarantees that Silver Creek (26-2) will play for the state championship on Saturday. First, they can eliminate the Fort Morgan Mustangs (19-9) on Friday (UCHealth Park, 1:30 p.m.). If they are to do that, then either Holy Family or Pueblo West would have to beat SC twice on Saturday to keep the Raptors from that elusive trophy. The Cyclones and Tigers play the 11 a.m. game Friday at UCHealth Park.
A loss to Fort Morgan on Friday means that Silver Creek would play one of those three teams in a one-game state championship final Saturday.
“It’s a great feeling,” Regan said. “We’re going in a confident team. We know we just have to finish the job. We haven’t accomplished anything. It’s all about finishing what we started.”
In all three games, Silver Creek was able to get timely hitting, adequate pitching and showed the ability to fight back late when needed. The team recorded double-digit hits and scored a critical run in the final two innings of all three games. Michael Wegleitner was the toughest out in the lineup going 7-for-12 with two RBIs, but the team as a whole had at least seven of the nine players in the lineup produce a hit in each game.
“When teammates in front of me get hits, it’s easy for me to come up and get some RBIs,” Swenson said. “Right after me I have Tanner (hitting) behind me and he usually is able to bring me home.”
One area Silver Creek will look to improve is on the mound after giving up 16 runs and 24 hits in their three wins last week. Regan is one of the anchors on the veteran pitching staff and went six innings in the win over Pueblo West. Wegleitner went seven innings against Wheat Ridge and Matthew Koelfgen threw six against HFHS.
Their goal this weekend is to create weaker contact from the hitters at the plate.
“I have to continue to pitch to contact,” Regan said. “I know I don’t have to go up there and strike everyone out. I have to stay focused and stay pitch by pitch.”
The remaining games of the 4A tournament will all be played at UCHealth Park. For Silver Creek, it hopes to be one sitting at the top for the first time in school history, fitting the similar climb they endured in Nevada two months prior.
“It would be crazy to be able to say you won the first state title for a program like Silver Creek,” Regan said.