LAKEWOOD — All Holly needed was a couple of early runs. After that, a strong pitching performance lifted the Wildcats to Colorado high school baseball immortality.
A couple of early fielding mistakes from Fleming in the first inning got Holly on the scoreboard with the result ending in a 5-0 to win for the school's first baseball championship in school history.
Ricardo Juarez threw all seven innings, giving up only four hits and striking out six Fleming hitters in a dominant championship performance.
"Ricardo's been our guys since he was a freshman," Holly coach Dayne Eaton said. "We've been so close. Two years ago we knocked off a great Stratton team and then last year we tried to save Ricardo and got beat by Dove Creek and they went on to win it."
But there would be none of that this year.
Juarez threw three innings in the Class 1A semifinal game against Eads and was ready to go for Thursday's championship game.
Before he even stepped foot on the mound, he was given a 4-0 thanks to some defensive miscues from Fleming. Yaniel Vidal launched a ball over the head of Tyler Johnson in right field, allowing Payne Donaldson to score. Juarez drove home Vidal with a RBI single the very next at-bat.
Juarez and another run would cross the plate and the hurler went to the mound with a solid cushion to start his day.
"I felt pretty great," Juarez said. "I warmed up pretty great and our defense looked pretty good."
In the other dugout, Fleming was depleted emotionally after the disastrous first inning. They could never string together more than one hit in an inning and played like a team feeling the pressure of starting the day in the hole.
"We knew it was going to be two good pitchers and probably a low-scoring game," Fleming coach John King said. "We just come out and walking that leadoff batter hurt a little bit and the second guy hit the bomb."
Juarez remained efficient on the mound as the game wore on. Through all seven innings he threw 75 pitches, 62 of them going for strikes.
As the prospect of winning a championship drew closer with each inning, it almost seemed like he was getting stronger.
"We keep a good eye on his numbers," Eaton said. "He's very efficient. He has a good fastball, he's worked on his off-speed stuff all year coming and that's where he's improved the most. He's pitching smarter."
In 2013, these two teams played for the 1A championship and it was Fleming who came out with the gold. Combined with the semifinal loss from a year ago, this win helped exorcise some playoff demons for the Wildcats.
"Last year, I felt kind of heartbroken and this year it's just unreal," Juarez said. "Ever since the last out we made, it sunk in after that."