The Holly Wildcats came into the Colorado 1A State Final Four Tournament for the third year in a row on Thursday, May 18 at All-Star Park in Lakewood, Colorado but came away with a disappointing loss in the semifinals game to Flatirons Academy. Holly entered the game as the #1 seed while Flatirons came in as the #4 seed. Holly defeated Flatirons for the State Championship two short years ago, so this is a rematch of two top programs. This game had ups, downs, clutch hits, key strikeouts, lead changes, and every other exciting thing you can think of happening in a baseball game!
As the visitors, the Bison struck early in their first at bats of the game. Rex Beck drew a lead-off walk with Devin Eaton on the mound for Holly. Mateo Pope sacrifice bunted him over to second. Carson Gabbert then also laid down a sacrifice bunt but a sharp play by third baseman Dom Maldonado got the out at third as he wheeled and tossed to shortstop Julian Terrazas covering third base for the force. Noah Evans singled to load the bases. A passed ball allowed the first run to score, then a single from Nolan Sheppard pushed the second run of the game across the plate. Jude Meyer flew out to right field to end the inning for Flatirons with a 2-0 lead.
The pressure began to build as Holly was unable to score for the first 3 innings against starting pitcher Mateo Pope, only getting runners on base in the second when Devin Eaton singled and Roque Torres was hit by a pitch to put runners on first and second. Fortunately, the Bisons were unable to score in the second, third, and fourth innings as both pitchers settled in and pitched well. Mateo Pope for Flatirons had four strikeouts in the first three innings, as Devin Eaton for Holly battled hard to keep the Bisons at bay.
Then in the fourth inning, Holly showed a spark as Julian Terrazas singled, stole 2nd base, and then scored on a single by Truman King. The inning ended with Flatirons leading 2-1.
The fifth inning was scoreless for Flatirons, but Julian Terrazas made an outstanding play. Nolan Sheppard drew a two out walk and attempted to steal second base on the next pitch. The throw was on the money from Truman King and the tag was applied for the out, but the umpire hesitated to make the call and when Sheppard slid past the base and lost contact, Terrazas tagged him a second time and he was called out.
In the bottom of the fifth things began to go Holly’s way. Andre Salgado rapped a lead-off single and then stole second. Nick Vazquez delivered a triple to bring Salgado home to tie the game at two apiece. Then Terrazas was given an intentional walk, and quickly stole second base to put runners at second and third. Carson Gabbert came in to pitch for Flatirons and would pitch the remainder of the game for the Bisons. Devin Eaton was able to hit a fielder’s choice groundball which pushed the lead run across to make it 3-2 Holly as Vazquez scored. Truman King then hit a sacrifice fly and Terrazas tagged up and scored from third base to make it 4-2 Holly.
The sixth inning saw Flatirons cut the lead to one when Jude Meyer singled then advanced to third when a pickoff attempt to first base was overthrown down the right field line. Micah Doughty grounded out to third to get Meyer home and the score stood at 4-3. Holly was unable to score in the bottom half and led by 1 heading into what should have been the final inning.
The top of the 7th saw the Bisons tack on two runs when Parker Wilson drew a walk, Nolan Sheppard was hit by a pitch, and Jude Meyer rapped a two-RBI double. The Wildcats trailed 5-4 heading to the home half of the seventh inning. Nick Vazquez led off with a walk, and after Terrazas struck out, Vazquez was able to steal second on a close play. Eaton hit a ball hard to right field, but it was caught, and Vazquez tagged up and moved up to third. King was up with a chance to tie it the ballgame and he delivered, hitting a hot shot to third base that wasn’t handled. Vazquez scored the tying run as King made it to first with a single. King then stole second and Dylan Tamayo drew a walk, then Roque Torres gave Holly hope with a fly ball, but it was caught in right field to send this one to extra innings.
The eighth inning saw all the momentum go to the Bisons as the first four batters was hit by the pitch, hit by the pitch again, stuck out, and hit by the pitch. Then a groundout to third base was thrown home for the second out. The bases were loaded with two outs when Parker Wilson stepped in the box. He hit a long, slicing fly ball down the right field line. Vazquez had a bead on it, and it looked like he may be able to make the play, but his dive fell short as it sliced too much and landed just fair. The triple cleared the bases and gave the Bisons a 3-run lead. An overthrow to third allowed Wilson to score and the Bisons took a four-run lead into the bottom of the eighth inning.
The Wildcats were unable to get a rally started, with two strikeouts followed by a fly out to center field, which sent Flatirons to the championship game.
Flatirons Academy eventually fell to the 2023 Colorado 1A State Champions Haxtun Bulldogs (23-2), 19-7. The Bulldogs had pulled off an upset over Akron (#2, 18-7) in an exciting 2-1 game that went into the 8th inning. This was the first-ever Baseball state championship for the Bulldogs.
Flatirons: 2 0 0 0 0 1 2 4 = 9
Holly: 0 0 0 1 3 0 1 0 = 5
The Holly Wildcats will lose three seniors who have contributed greatly to this amazing program. The three seniors include Julian Terrazas (LHP, SS) who hit .537 this year with 29 hits, 15 RBIs and led the team with 4 homeruns. Terrazas was also the Wildcats’ ace on the hill carrying a 2.31 ERA and 76 strikeouts.
Roque Torres was also on the mound in spots for Holly carrying a 5.48 ERA. Torres was the Wildcat second baseman and carried a .333 batting average with 15 hits and 10 RBIs.
Dom Maldonado played third base for the Wildcats and hit at a .261 batting average with 12 hits and 10 RBIs.
The three Holly seniors were members of three amazing teams that were in the final four for three consecutive years. In 2022 they were the state runner-ups and in 2021 they were members of the state championship team. After the debacle of the 2020 season when Covid canceled all spring sports, these young men turned tragedy into triumph.
The Holly Wildcat team is becoming a storied program in Colorado as they have achieved the following results in the past decade of baseball starting in 2013 when Head Coach Dayne Eaton took the helm for the Wildcats:
2013: State Second Place
2014: Qualified for Regionals
2015: Final Four
2016: STATE CHAMPIONS
2017: State Second Place
2018: State Second Place
2019: Qualified for Regionals
2020: canceled season due to Covid
2021: STATE CHAMPIONS
2022: State Second Place
2023: Final Four
A winning tradition is built upon the hard work and determination of every player from the past. As these seniors move on the Wildcats’ roster looks amazingly strong with still one of the best bullpens in the state.