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Baseball: Fairview’s improbable run ends on the final day of Class 5A state tournament

The Knights fell to Valor Christian 6-4

  • Brent W. New/BoCoPreps.com

    LAKEWOOD — Fairview’s Luke Silverman bats against Valor Christian at Keli McGregor Field Friday, June 25, 2021.

  • Brent W. New/BoCoPreps.com

    LAKEWOOD — Fairview’s Greysen Carter follows through on a pitch against Valor Christian at Keli McGregor Field Friday, June 25, 2021.

  • Brent W. New/BoCoPreps.com

    Fairview pitcher Greyson Carter delivers against Valor Christian in the Class 5A state tournament at Keli McGregor Field on Friday, June 25, 2021.

  • Brent W. New/BoCoPreps.com

    LAKEWOOD — Colorado Gov. Jared Polis signs a baseball for Fairview’s JD Jones following a ceremonial first pitch at Keli McGregor Field Friday, June 25, 2021.

  • Brent W. New/BoCoPreps.com

    LAKEWOOD — Colorado Gov. Jared Polis tosses a ceremonial first pitch at Keli McGregor Field Friday, June 25, 2021.

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LAKEWOOD — For the last 11 days, Fairview had time and time again tip-toed the brink to survive and play at least one more game.

It was a magnificent balancing act, one that climbed within two wins of reaching high school baseball’s ultimate prize. Yet after another gritty effort on the season’s final day, and a near last-out run for the ages, it finally gave way.

Valor Christian delivered the knockout blow in Friday morning’s game at Keli McGregor Field at Coca-Cola All-Star Park, using a big start before needing to hold on tight late to beat Knights 6-4 in reaching the Class 5A title game against Mountain Vista later in the afternoon.

As part of one more bounce-back from a team that never would lie down in the spring, Dillion Souvignier homered off Valor Christian starter Radek Birkholz to lead off the seventh to cut the deficit to 6-3.

The Eagles’ ace got the next two outs before departing, but his bullpen struggled to close.

Fairview reached safely with its next four batters. The tying run in scoring position, though, Valor’s second reliever out of the pen, Deacon Nagy, got a strikeout to end things.

“That’s what they’ve been all year, they never gave up,” Fairview coach David Castillo said. “The scoring run in position here, the possibilities could be endless. It could be a double, take the lead, but that’s how they were all year. Even in our losses, that’s how we lost.”

For a team riding so high coming into the day, the lows came quickly in its departure.

The Eagles chased ace Greysen Carter with just one out gone in the first and scored five in the frame to seize command early.

Carter, the uber-talented Vanderbilt pitching commit, had an error behind him, issued four walks and was called for a balk as part of his shortest outing of the season.

In the inning, Carter was replaced by freshman Anton Keith, who allowed one run in 3 2/3 innings of relief. Marcus Orlando followed with two spotless innings of his own.

The exit spelled an end to a gritty comeback run by Fairview (17-5). It had won its region to claim the lowest seed in a double-elimination state playoff bracket before immediately falling to top-ranked Heritage in the opening round.

With no room for error since last weekend, it responded with three straight wins, including a 4-2 victory over the streaking Golden Eagles Thursday, and needed just two more on the final day to win its first baseball championship since 1993.

“They’re going to use what they learned in this game and their time here at Fairview, they’re going to use that in life,” Castillo said. “I’m so proud of this team and it was honor to coach them. They did their best and made it to the top three, and it just didn’t work out today.”

Carter’s ground-rule double over the centerfield wall off Birkholz scored the game’s first run. But the lead was short-lived.

The Eagles plated five in the bottom half of the frame despite getting just two hits. As part of the early troubles, Castillo questioned a balk call that scored the Eagles’ third run, and a wild pitch brought home another two pitches later.

Then, Tanner Meyn’s RBI single off Keith made it 5-1 before the freshman induced a double play to bring an end to a frame that lasted around 20 minutes.

With the cushion, Birkholz, who carried a 0.48 ERA into the game, allowed just three runs — two earned — on four hits to improve to 6-0 on the year.

A pair of doubles from Carter was among Birkholz’s few hiccups through the first six frames. He struck out six straight as part of 11 consecutive outs before Souvignier led off the seventh with an 0-2 count homer.

With him departing with two outs in the seventh, Tyler Larson and Nagy needed a combined 24 pitches to close.

“It kind of shows we can fight,” Souvignier said. “It’s a brotherhood, the best brotherhood I’ve been a part of.”

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis kicked off the final day of the 5A baseball season by throwing out a pair of first pitches — one to each Fairview and Valor.

The governor was publicly instrumental in decisions regarding high school sports during the pandemic. After the last spring season was canceled a year ago, Polis made an appearance at a golf tournament in Denver when high school sports finally returned last fall.