PUEBLO — A state championship bid had so much potential heading into the afternoon hours Saturday at Rawlings Field. Holy Family had finally done something that no one had been able to do in the Class 4A state baseball tournament.
They had gotten the better of Ponderosa. Evergreen, Cheyenne Mountain and even the Tigers themselves had come close to dealing the Mustangs a loss at some point in the tournament. But the wild horses ran freely at the right time and got into Saturday’s slate of games without a loss on their record.
Holy Family won that first game 10-4 to set up a winner-take-all second game. At that point, however, the Tigers seemed to simply run out of steam. The Mustangs scored five combined runs in the third and fourth innings and broke open for five more in the sixth to get an 11-2 win over Holy Family and win the state baseball title in the process.
“Pondo is a great team,” Holy Family coach John Ray said. “Pondo ran through 5A and we had some big wins in 5A too. And when you play big baseball, someone has to win.”
More specifically, someone has to win that final game.
But to even get to that point, Holy Family had to win the first game of the day. Blake Hammond put together a steady performance in which he went 6 2/3 innings and surrendered just three earned runs as Holy Family got the 10-4 victory. He struck out six Mustangs and walked just two hitters.
He got plenty of offensive help from Cord Kringlen, who went 2-for-3 with two doubles and three RBIs. One of those doubles came as the Tigers blew the game open in the fifth inning. They scored four runs off three hits to make it 9-4.
“We saw the ball pretty well in that first game,” Kringlen said. “We had very timely at-bats, but in the second game the luck just didn’t go our way.”
At first it looked like the scoring train was going to remain in service in the second and deciding game of the state tournament. The Tigers took a 1-0 lead in the top of the third thanks to a solo home run from Izaak Siefken.
The top of the Mustangs’ order retaliated with two runs in the bottom of the inning thanks to consecutive extra-base hits from Cael Porter and Dylan Carey. They only added to the lead in the fourth thanks a two-run triple from Kolton Miller.
And HFHS just couldn’t get the hits off Derek Lukes that it did a week ago. On June 19, the Tigers scored six runs off Lukes and chased him out of the game after four innings. This time, Lukes had more command of his stuff and at times overpowered the Tigers.
“I came in with a chip on my shoulder,” he said.
This was Holy Family’s sixth appearance in a state title game and the first time since jumping up to the 4A classification. As he looked at his players hug each other after the loss, Ray couldn’t hide the pride he felt for every player that had taken that field.
“These kids have been backed into a corner from the very start,” he said. “They lost last season because of outside forces. What more can you ask from a school of 600 kids and a program that fights and fights?”