Before the game started, everyone knew the Wildcats would win. The Fleming Wildcats were taking on the Holly Wildcats for the Colorado 1A High School State Championship at All Star Park in Lakewood on Thursday afternoon. 1A, minimum enrollment of 85 students, no more than 240, which usually means the sports are not the best. The schools are really too small to field top tier teams. Fleming is small enough that they play in the 6-man division. But the sizes of the school was not the big story of this game.
Fleming Wildcat senior Jeremy Richhard-Kind played one game for his team this year. Then, after being thrown from his car in a single car accident in March, confining him to a wheelchair. That was not going to stop him from being in the dugout during this final game against Holly. One of his coaches rolled him out during the team introductions and he fist bumped each member of the team and stayed out there during the National Anthem.
After the teams headed back to the dug out, Richhard-Kind, with the help of his teammates, was placed on a bench right up next to the field so he could watch every minute of the game. Now, this was my first time at this field. And to tell you the truth, I think it might have been the first time I have gotten out of my car in Lakewood. I had no idea what the field would give me for shooting, but as soon as I got there, media boxes were chalked out on the field for me. I decided to have some fun with this game. My main camera was my 7D with my 120-300 2.8 lens on it, and I set my 1D Mark II with 70-200 2.8 lens up on the Fleming dugout as a remote, pointing at third base, and I took my classic 1D, that 4 megapixel beast with my 24-70 2.8 lens on it for grab shots of the players. I got some good stuff from my 1D and my 7D, but I rushed too much with the remote and did not have it zoomed in or pointed just right, so out of about 80 images, I got about 4 decent ones.
Now, before we talk more about the game, I want to point out the photo above. These are metal bats. Look at that flex. A 1/3200th of a second shutter speed helped me catch the flex here. Ok…back to the game.
The weather was good for the most part. It was a beautiful day for baseball. Clouds did roll in for a little while, and it spit some rain for a few minutes, but it did not last and the sun was back out very quick. The Holly Wildcats jumped out to a 3-1 lead over Fleming in the third inning off of a 2 run triple.
A different thing I found out here in Colorado, all baseball games are 7 innings. I would have thought State would be 9 innings. In Alaska they play both 7 inning games and 9 inning games, but here, just 7 (unless there is a tie of course). So that threw me off my game plan. My plan was to shoot from the 3rd base side for the 1st three innings, then move to the 1st base side for 4-6. Then, for the 7th and 8th, I was going to go shoot from behind the backstop to get shots of the pitchers, and wander around and get some crowd shots, then get back on the field for the 9th and be able to rush the field for the celebration. But, as I was heading to the gate to go get my pitcher shots, the announcer said it was time for the final inning… Whoops. So I stayed on the field.
It took me about an hour to combine 5 photos to make the photo illustration above of Game MVP Tyler Vandenbark of Fleming. I got the idea after seeing a similar shot in this weeks Sports Illustrated. Click on the photo to see a larger version.
So we were going into the 7th inning tied 3-3. Fleming had tied the game up with two runs in the fourth inning, but both teams went scoreless in the 5th and 6th innings.
In the top of the 7th, Fleming, the visitors for this neutral site game, were up first, and took a 2 run lead. They got caught in a run down (second of the game), between 1st and 2nd. In the first rundown, earlier in the game, it was a Holly player that got caught between 1st and 2nd, and he was not too happy with how hard the tag was applied, and ripped his helmet off on the field as he stared down the Fleming infielders. But the run down in the photo below went smoothly with no animosity shown.
So, with Fleming leading 5-3, Holly needed to plate two runs to head into extra innings, and 3 to win their first ever state baseball championship in their first appearance in the final game. But it was Jeremy Richhard-Kind day. He had been on the edge of his seat in the dug out as MVP Vandenbark struck out the last two Holly batters. Now, I was expecting the standard dog pile on the field, but it did not happen. Instead the Fleming team went over to the dugout, got Richhard-Kind out of his seat and into his wheelchair and rolled him over to give Holly the end of game handshakes. Then when the Championship trophy was handed to Fleming, it was accepted by Richhard-Kind who promptly raised it over his head as his team surrounded his wheelchair.
As the team posed for the championship team photo, a plan was hatching. When the photo was done, the team took control of Richhard-Kind’s wheelchair and ran him around the bases.
In the photo bellow, snagged with my 7D and 120-300 lens as I was gathering my remote and backpack, the team was running with Richhard-Kind towards 3rd base, but that is where the help ended. From third to home, Richhard-Kind rolled the last 90 feet himself. One last time around the bases for this senior.
Congratulations to the Fleming Wildcats on winning the 2013 Colorado 1A Baseball Championship, and congrats to the Holly Wildcats for making it to the final game for the first time ever. One note on the Holly team, they had one player, Alex Rodriguez, who they called A-Rod. After spending 20 years in Seattle, I had the urge to throw a wad of monopoly money at him…. Mariner fans will understand.
To view and purchase photos from this championship game, please visit MaxPreps. To purchase the Photo Illustration above, please contact me directly.