GREELEY – Less than 20 days ago, Holly baseball coach Dayne Eaton made a crucial decision that would largely shape the end of the team’s season.
Flatirons Academy was on its way to Holly for a double header, and Eaton had to decide whether a regular season winner was more important or not than playing in a pitching matchup for a potential showdown in the state championship. When the decision was made, Eaton had decided that Brigden Parker, the team’s ace, would not hit in the regular season.
He wanted to save him from the state.
The gambling paid off to a large extent when Parker threw a complete shutout and Holly beat Bison 1-0 to win the program’s second Class 1A state baseball krone and first since 2016.
“Our strength is our depth in pitching,” Eaton said. “So I left (regular season games) for the other guys, and we were going to save Brigden. The Limon coach (Rocky Rockwell) told me we were on a collision course with them for the state title. Limon beat them by one and beat us by one, and both matches could have gone both ways. “
It was a much bigger gamble considering that Eaton was determined not to throw Parker before the state title game and handed over the semifinal settlement to his son Dakota.
The Wildcats (16-4 overall) helped him a lot. Home runs from Parker and Jose Magallanes led the way to a 9-1 victory, setting up this showdown between Holly and Flatirons Academy.
That collision course came to a peak and right in the middle of it was a pitcher duel. Both Parker and Bison (12-3) starting Trenton Rowan were fantastic all day.
In seven innings, Rowan allowed just four hits and went one hit. He struck out 13 strokes that he faced. He just made a mistake. He left a pitch over the plate until Magallanes blew it over the left field fence to give the Wildcats a 1-0 lead in the sixth inning.
“He told me it was an internal change, and he was wondering how I got it,” Magallanes said. “He was very confused about how I got it.”
It did not matter. A 1-0 lead with the way Rowan and Parker threw, could just as easily have been a 10-0 lead. When he saw the ball disappear over the fence, Parker accepted the challenge of ending the game with a lead.
“I knew it was up to me to close it,” Parker said. “Once he hit it, I knew. We got this one.”
His pitch counts in there, and his goal was to complete the match. Evan Moll reached the base on a throwing error from Parker, but he responded by knocking out the next two hitters with a total of 10 lanes.
He only needed a pitch to induce a count from Blake Swearingen that gave the wildcats the state title. He ended the day with 13 strikes and worked very often in front of hitters. Of the 26 bullets he encountered, he threw 19 first strikes. Overall, he can not remember a better performance he has ever had on the mound.
“It has to be No. 1,” he said.
And it all goes back to the June 5 decision by Eaton. He could have thrown Parker that day and given his team a mental advantage if they were to play each other for the state. But he decided he wanted to save Parker’s best performance for the last game of the year.