Class 3A Final Four – June 1, Butch Butler Field, Greeley, CO
Lamar 6, University 5
In the second of two final four games at Butch Butler Field in Greeley, the Lamar Savages and University Bulldogs squared off with the Savages needing a victory to stay alive in the tournament while University, being the only unbeaten team left in the field after the first weekend of play, weren’t going to be adversely affected with a loss.
The Savages’ sense of urgency was evident from the beginning as they hit balls hard, but weren’t getting any results against Bulldog starting pitcher Colton Widler. Defenders were always in the right place and University was able to take a 2-0 lead to the bottom of the fifth. A pair of triples led to the two runs for the Bulldogs who were giving Lamar ace Dalton Chandler his toughest challenge of the season. Despite having to deal with traffic on the bases in every inning, Chandler and the Savages persevered and kept the game within reach, just waiting for a chance to break loose on offense.
That chance came in the bottom of the fifth. A pair of walks, a base hit plus an error loaded the bases with one out. The lineup turned over to lead-off hitter Lucas Watson. One of the most reliable bats in the lineup didn’t even have to take his bat off his shoulder at first as Widler was called for a balk that scored courtesy runner Jesus Gonzalez. Then a wild pitch from Widler allowed Addison Morales to score and just like that, the game was tied 2-2. Moments later, Watson gave the Savages their first lead with a sharp line drive single to left, scoring Kameron Farmer.
The momentum had shifted completely and the Bulldogs continued to crumble. A passed ball allowed Watson to move to second base, and he came in to score on Davin Jacobs’ hard ground ball up the middle. After Andres Guevara singled to move Jacobs into scoring position, Chandler came up and lifted a high fly ball to left. But University left fielder Nolan Johnson couldn’t find the ball in the sun, and the ball dropped in for a double. Jacobs crossed the plate and Lamar took a 5-2 lead. It wouldn’t be the last time Johnson would have trouble with a Chandler fly ball on this day.
Despite the big inning, University was able to come right back in the sixth. They were able to drive Chandler’s pitch count up throughout the contest and Dalton ran out of pitches with two outs in the inning. Watson came on looking to slam the door with two runners on. But back to back singles from Andre Chacon and Levi Dart tied the game at 5.
The Savages weren’t able to score in the bottom of the sixth, and University’s Cameron Multer led off the seventh with a single. But he was erased when Widler grounded into a 6-4-3 double play. Koy Jorgensen flew out and the game went to the bottom of the seventh, where the Savages needed only a single run to win.
The top of the order was due up, but despite hard hit balls deep to the outfield, Watson and Max Carere were retired. With two outs and nobody on, Jacobs came up and nearly won the game with a sharp line shot to right-center that glanced off the wall. But Jacobs slipped and stumbled on the first base bag and had to hold with a long single, his third hit of the day. But then Guevara worked a walk to move Davin into scoring position.
Up came Chandler, who worked the count to 3-1 before lifting a deep fly ball to left. Johnson retreated to the warning track and appeared to have the ball measured to make an inning-ending catch. But the wind had been blowing from left to right across the outfield most the game and the ball took a shift in direction that Johnson wasn’t anticipating. He reacted with a diving effort to his left, but it was too late. The ball dropped, and Jacobs skipped home to score, giving Lamar the walk-off win, 6-5.
The victory, along with Faith Christian’s 5-4 win over Eaton to start the day meant there were now three teams still left in the tournament heading into the final day. University in taking their first loss of the tournament, earned the bye to the title game. Lamar was slated to face Faith Christian, who had handed them a 2-0 defeat in the second game of the tournament on May 25.
The win moved the Savages to 23-2 overall, which set a new school program record for wins in a season. The 1991 squad had the previous record with 22 wins before this year’s team tied it with the 15-13 win over Peak to Peak on May 26.
Class 3A Final Three – June 2, Butch Butler Field, Greeley, CO
Lamar 3, Faith Christian 1
In what was the final elimination game of the tournament before the state championship match-up, the Savages would need to get past the Faith Christian Eagles, who had shut them out 2-0 earlier the tournament behind a complete game two-hitter from Michael Thorne. It was thought that the Savages would likely see Thorne again, given that a loss would eliminate either team. But the Eagles decided to start Macklin Brockmeyer, hoping to save Thorne for the title game later in the day.
The Savages would force the Eagles’ hand in the second inning. Eberhardt and Morales each singled, but Brockmeyer matched it with a pair of strikeouts. Lamar would need a big two-out hit. But first, they got some help. Brockmeyer fired to first base to check on Morales, but Eagle first baseman Garrett Everett wasn’t covering the base to receive the throw, which bounced into foul territory. Courtesy runner Jesus Gonzales, running for Eberhardt, was able to round third and score ahead of the throw and Lamar led 1-0. Watson would double the advantage as he blasted a triple to right-center field to score Morales.
Faith Christian coach Jim Polson had seen enough, and summoned Thorne in from left field to pitch. As it would turn out, the move came too late for the Eagles.
The story of the game was the performance of Savage starting pitcher Eberhardt. He had been known throughout his career to be a reliable weapon on the mound for Lamar, but had struggled mightily at times down the stretch of this season. In his previous three starts, he only combined to go 6 1/3 innings with 19.9 ERA. But with a berth to the state championship game on the line, Eberhardt shined like he never had before.
Normally a high-volume pitcher, Colton mixed in numerous off-speed pitches along with a speedy fastball to keep the Eagles off-balance from start to finish. He pitched to contact rather than trying to strike out every hitter, and Faith Christian was not able to find many holes in the defense.
The Savages were able to tag Thorne with a run with two outs in the third. Chandler singled and scored when Eberhardt doubled to the wall in left-center.
The only major threat the Eagles mounted came in the fifth with Lamar leading 3-0. A walk, single and passed ball put runners at second and third. Everett came home to score when Thorne grounded out and it was a 3-1 lead for Lamar. Eberhardt came right back to strike out Blake Passamaneck to end the inning and limit the damage.
Lamar took the two-run lead to the seventh, and on many occasions for pitchers, the last three outs are the hardest to get. Not for Eberhardt on this day. He only needed nine pitches to retire the side in order, finishing with a 79-pitch complete game victory while only allowing two hits. The Savages eliminated the Eagles and advanced to the title game with the 3-1 win.
Colton finished with nine strikeouts and it was by far the most efficient game he had ever thrown for LHS, especially given the stakes of the game. A remarkable gem when his team needed it the most.
The Savages had won their third game of the tournament while on the brink of elimination. Now they turned to face University in a winner-take-all title game.
Class 3A State Championship – June 2, Butch Butler Field, Greeley, CO
University 21, Lamar 2 (5 inn.)
After the win over Faith Christian, Savages second-year head coach Jason Veyna knew he would have to piece together the pitching staff with Chandler unavailable, having thrown 110 against University the day before. Watson only had 45 pitches to throw, having thrown 15 in the same game. And there was Eberhardt, who still had 31 pitches after his amazing performance against Faith Christian.
Coach Veyna slotted Eberhardt to start and use up the rest of his pitches. This was the last game on the last day of the season after all so there was no reason to save or rest anybody.
Across the way was a Bulldog team that already had been bested by the Savages twice. The first came on March 23 in the semifinals of the La Junta Hampton Inn Classic, a 5-4 Lamar victory. Then only 24 hours prior to the title game, the Savages pulled off the walk-off 6-5 win over University to advance to the final day of play. But as it was noted earlier, the loss did not adversely affect the Bulldogs all that much. It gave them a bye to the winner-take-all game, having gone undefeated in the first weekend. They were able to save their #1 pitcher, Cameron Multer, while the Savages didn’t have that luxury. But the game would not come down to Multer keeping the Savages quiet. The story from the very beginning was the hot bats that University brought forth.
University set the tone from the opening pitch from Eberhardt. Andre Chacon singled to start what would eventually turn into a four-run opening frame. Eberhardt got two outs, but ran out of pitches. In came Watson, and even he had trouble keeping the Bulldogs quiet. In fact, no one the Savages threw on Saturday afternoon was able to dent the University lineup.
The Savages got a run back in the bottom of the first and trailed 4-1. University got that run back in the second and led 5-1 going to the third.
The bottom began to fall out for Lamar as Watson surrendered a double and two singles before running out of pitches. Early in the inning with one out, a base hit brought home Koy Jorgensen. At first, he was called out as the throw from shortstop Eberhardt to the catcher Guevara was in time to apply the tag. But then the umpires got together after University appealed the play. The Savage fans erupted in displeasure as the call was reversed. No official signal was given, but it suspected that interference was ruled, allowing Jorgensen to score.
The snowball only got bigger for Lamar. Jacobs came in to pitch, and the Bulldogs greeted him with more trouble. Chacon singled to give University a 7-1 lead. Then up came Grayson Swanson, one of the state’s best hitters, who was committed to play college baseball at NAIA Oklahoma Christian. Swanson, on the first pitch he saw from Jacobs, took a hanging breaking ball deep to left for a three-run home run and the Bulldogs led 10-1.
That alone seemed to remove the air from the Savage side, though they never stopped competing. Watson reached on an error and later scored on a Guevara single in the third to make it 10-2. Lamar would not score again against Multer.
But University just kept on scoring with no end in sight. Jacobs was tagged for five runs on 2/3 of an inning. Jaime Vasquez allowed three runs while only recording one out. Carere and freshman Kevin Pearson each came on, and each saw University continue to pile on runs. Five runs scored in the fourth and six came home in the fifth.
In the bottom of the fifth, Jacobs singled for the Savages’ 273rd and final hit of what was in many ways a historic season, despite not being able to win the state title.
University captured their first title since 1997 with the 21-2 victory, their first win in three tries against Lamar in 2018. There was mutual respect from both teams to one another and a fine display of sportsmanship on the field after the trophy presentations.
A Season Rich With Memories
The Savages took home a Final Four plaque and the silver runner-up trophy. While the latter certainly was not what the Savages came to Greeley to get, it will still shine brightly at Lamar High School and represent what this team able to accomplish during the season.
A 24-3 final record goes into the books, with the 24 wins becoming the new record for wins in a season for the program. With a base hit in the title game, Carere tied head coach Jason Veyna with the most hits for an individual in a season with 43. The team batted .359 with 273 hits and 273 runs scored. They collected 221 RBI which is also a new school season record.
Dalton Chandler will add his name to the list of legendary pitchers to walk the halls of LHS. He struck out 121 batters this season, while compiling a 0.80 ERA. For his career, Chandler fanned 259 hitters in 139 innings or about 1.9 strikeouts per inning over four seasons. Opponents hit .131 against him and in 2018, they were 6 for 162 (.037).
Watson scored 81 runs in the last two seasons and he along with Eberhardt and Jacobs, belted grand slams for the Savages in 2018. Davin led the way with six home runs.
This season, the Savages captured the Tri-Peaks East Division Title, and the overall Tri-Peaks crown with the win at Buena Vista on May 5, to go along with a 12th consecutive season hosting a playoff regional, and winning a regional title on their home field to get to the state tournament, where they finished 4-2 and took the runner-up spot.
On behalf of the Lamar and Southeast Colorado community, we can’t say thank you enough to the 2018 Lamar Savage baseball team. Thank you for all the memories and best of luck to the senior class in their future endeavors on and off the field!