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Challis-Mackay’s special season ends

Challis-Mackay pitcher Garrett Millick leaned over on the mound and shook his head.

The bases were loaded in the top of the fifth inning against Malad. Millick had just surrendered two runs to the Dragons, and the game began slipping away from the RiverCats during Saturday’s 2A consolation championship.

His body language told the whole story: Challis-Mackay had simply run out of magic — and were overwhelmed after three straight games at Melalueca Field.

Malad beat Challis-Mackay 4-1 to win the consolation championship, as Millick pitched all seven innings. The RiverCats finished the tournament in fifth.

“Today, that was a game,” said coach Ryan Millick, whose two sons (Will and Garrett) start for the RiverCats.

In a grander picture, though, Challis-Mackay was the real winner this weekend.

The RiverCats didn’t have a baseball program three years ago. The two schools are too small, population-wise, to maintain a program on their own. When it finally pieced enough resources to make a team, it won just six games in two seasons.

Three years after its inauguration, it played for the 2A consolation championship and won its first state tournament game ever.

Few saw Saturday’s matchup coming.

“This season was unbelievable,” said Will Millick, the team’s only senior who played through a hip injury Saturday. “And it means a lot to both the communities.”

Don’t snicker, either. The program has overcome its own adversity to make its first state tournament.

Millick said the RiverCats had only four practices together this season because the schools are 50 miles apart.

Coaches Justin Ivie and Millick had to drive an hour on Highway 93 just to coordinate those four practices.

They’re also the only co-ed team in this year’s’ tournament — sometimes getting odd looks from opposing teams, Millick and Ivie said. The roster also included two girls, Zoe D’Orazio and Cheyenne Escalera.

“We’re going to have more girls playing baseball next year unless we get a softball team,” Will said.

And yet, Challis-Mackay was close to beating Malad.

The RiverCats’ best chance to take the lead Saturday came right after Garrett Millick allowed two runs on the mound. The RiverCats had runners on second and third in the bottom of the fifth with two outs.

Chase Ivie struck out — leaving those runners stranded. In total, they left 11 base runners stranded.

“It always stings when you leave base runners out there because opportunity is wasted,” coach Millick said.

Malad would then add an insurance run in the sixth and end Challis-Mackay’s special season.

Austin Ollar (2-4) was the RiverCats sole offensive leader, tallying in an RBI after a line drive ripped past the Dragons’ third basemen in the bottom of the fifth.

But regardless of a lack of offense shown or wild pitches thrown Friday, Millick said he and his team have grown exponentially over the previous three seasons.

And will continue to do so.

“I’m enjoying this so much,” D’Orazio said. “It was so much fun. The guys have welcomed me, I’m like their family.”

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