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Falcons earn respect in state semifinal loss

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By Brian Forbes

PUEBLO — The Falcons have landed.

Although few at Hobbs Field could probably find Front Range Christian on a map, the Falcons showed the Class 2A baseball field – and the defending champions, particularly – what they’re all about Friday in the state semifinals.

“I’m excited. I think we represented ourselves well,” coach Dave Sherman said. “We could have played better, but we played all 21 outs to the best of our abilities, and that was our goal.”

And the Falcons took the Custer County Bobcats to the limits, battling back twice before finally blinking in the seventh inning and losing 12-5.

It was a Cinderella story as much as it was coming of age tale for a young roster and an even younger program. It was proof that fundamental baseball and camaraderie can at least hang – and sometimes trump – traditional powers.

“We improved a ton all through the season,” lone senior Mark Nyhoff said. “We’ve just been hitting the ball the whole season. We continued to hit the ball today, but had a few fielding errors.”

Nyhoff threw six strong innings, and went 3-for-4 at the plate, belted two doubles and drove in three runs. Nyhoff battled against a formidable Bobcats’ lineup on the mound and got the best of Bobcats’ ace Jason Frink at the plate.

“I was excited,” Nyhoff said. “I was looking forward to this.”

He was just the kind of kid the Falcons needed to encourage them to take the next step.

“What an amazing senior,” Sherman said. “If you can only have one senior and you closed your eyes and you wanted the ideal young man, he’s it. Pounded the baseball, pitched his heart out on the hill after coming back from some injuries, and I’m just really proud of him.”

The Falcons had eight hits, and kept the Bobcats within striking distance until they allowed six runs on three hits in the top of the seventh. It was a deceiving final score, although it was a surreal 2 hours and 27 minutes.

“It’s kind of a trip,” shortstop Ben Nutsch said. “We played good (and) made it here.”

The Falcons fell behind 2-0 in the top of the first inning, but answered to take a surprising 3-2 lead in the bottom of the inning.

Nutsch, Matthew Meek and Nyhoff had hits and the Falcons had the Bobcats’ undivided attention.

The Bobcats surprised Sherman with how aggressive and successful they were running the bases. Custer County stole 10 bases, which allowed them to put more pressure – resulting in errors – on Front Range Christian and manufacture runs.

The Bobcats led 4-3 in the top of the fourth, but the Falcons came back to tie it in the fifth when David Valle’s single to center field scored Michael Fast from second.

The Bobcats made it 6-3 in the sixth inning before they finally chased Nyhoff in the top of the seventh and did their damage against relievers John Ross and Michael Fast.

The Falcons fought to the final out, adding one run in the bottom of the seventh.

Jalen LeDoux-Hayes singled and stole a base and Ross stole a base in the fourth inning.

“We have a very, very good baseball team and a very young baseball team that hits the ball,” Sherman said. “I love our kids. They work hard. We’ll be back next year.”

Custer County won the 2A crown with an 8-1 victory over Limon.