Falcon baseball's turnaround propels it into state 4A playoffs

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Photo - Falcon Brevin Owen and Gary Crist (right to left) congratulate Phillip Loving after he scored during a game at Falcon High School on Monday, May 8, 2017. Photo by Jerilee Bennett, The Gazette
Falcon Brevin Owen and Gary Crist (right to left) congratulate Phillip Loving after he scored during a game at Falcon High School on Monday, May 8, 2017. Photo by Jerilee Bennett, The Gazette

It's different now for Falcon baseball players while walking their high school's hallways.

"Other kids are asking how we're doing and are surprised if they hear we lost," said senior catcher/pitcher Gary Crist. "That wasn't always the case. Baseball has always been a little bit of a joke around here, especially compared to football, but now people have noticed we're playing well."

Crist is one of four seniors -- along with Phillip Loving, Brevin Owen and Spencer Scamman -- concluding their third year of varsity play together. They are the nucleus of a 13-6 Falcons team enjoying its best season in years after managing only five victories in 2016.

"This means a lot," Loving said. "We take a lot of pride in knowing we have helped bring Falcon baseball back to where it was."

The Falcons, seeded 17th in 4A, enter the state playoffs against No. 16 Thompson Valley (13-6) at 10 a.m. Saturday on the field of top-seeded Denver North (19-0), which later plays Conifer. A first-round win means the team would match the Falcon program's best mark (14-6) since 2012.

Taking on a team seeded just one spot above them gives the Falcons measured confidence that they can advance. The players point to two close losses to No. 11 seed Cheyenne Mountain (15-4) and a sweep of No. 5 Air Academy (14-5) as good preparation for the postseason.

"We have shown we can play with good teams," Owen said.

The success this season stemmed from the shared varsity experience, which created a tight bond among the seniors, third-year coach Dana Reichers said. Those seniors have done a good job making the transfers and younger players feel welcome, he added.

"I think I have done a better job of being a positive leader," Crist said. "Last year that was more difficult to do with all the losses and the injuries. But this year has been great. We've shown that together, we play good baseball in Falcon."