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Baseball: Stem delivers more spectacular in final game as Erie bows out of 4A tournament

Tigers stumble late in elimination game against Cheyenne Mountain

COLORADO SPRINGS — Erie's Sam Stem ...
Brent W. New/
COLORADO SPRINGS — Erie’s Sam Stem bats Friday, June 3, 2022.

COLORADO SPRINGS — Erie senior Sam Stem nearly made a leaping catch in the opening inning Friday that would have been suited for a highlight-segment show. Though in the end, it tipped off the top of his glove and fell in for extra bases.

In almost the same spot a few innings later, Mr. Northern Colorado Athletic Conference and Gonzaga Baseball crushed a ball off the right-center wall. A rally starter … that never bloomed.

The near misses could well have been sunflower seeds down in the stomach for the sixth-seeded Tigers as they bowed out of the Class 4A baseball postseason at UCHealth Park, losing to No. 8 Cheyenne Mountain 9-2.

But that’s baseball sometimes, Stem said.

“It was a really rough day on both sides, and that was disappointing,” Stem said. “There were so many things, little things, that could have gone our way, but they didn’t. Got to give it up to the other team. We put it all out there.”

Players from Erie revolved around its star outfielder afterward, embracing him and telling him how appreciated he was. The league player of the year finished the spring hitting .564 with 38 runs driven in and a state-most 30 extra-base hits.

He extended his hitting streak to 11 games with a triple to lead off the fourth inning Friday, though he was left stranded in a 3-0 game. In his last at-bat in the seventh, he was hit by a pitch as the Tigers scored two runs with their final out. Not enough to move on.

“My first year being here, these guys set the table for what we’re trying to do at Erie,” said Dustin Conley, who was named the NCAC coach of the year in his debut season. “We wanted to show every time we come on the field, we’re going to give a fight. And that’s kind of what these guys showed this year. It didn’t end the way we wanted it to, but that’s where our seniors set the tone.”

Erie had reached the state tournament after winning regionals as the 22nd seed, then won its opening two games of the double-elimination tournament last weekend over Golden and D’Evelyn.

Its season ended in losses to Ponderosa and the Red-Tailed Hawks, the two teams that will meet with a state title on the line Saturday.

Punching its ticket Friday, Cheyenne Mountain scored three runs over its first three batters, with Jace Eslinger’s triple narrowly avoiding a spectacular catch from Stem in center, followed by a two-run shot by Denton Damgaard that carried over 400 feet.


Erie starter Ethan Dillinger allowed just one hit after that heading into the fifth, where the Red-Tailed Hawks chased him and added four more runs.

It was 9-0 with two outs in the seventh when Trenton Rowan singled in a run and Holden Pantier scored on a pickoff error.

“We caught a little hot streak (in the tournaments) and all the little things were going our way,” Conley said. “And some things didn’t go our way today and the last couple games we had out here, but it’s baseball at that point. It’s going to happen. It’s not fun when it happens. But the kids learned how to persevere through it right now and our younger guys that are coming back next year, I think it shows them a lot of experience of how to deal with adversity. Those little things happen but we can bounce back pretty quickly.”

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