Riley Harrison wasn’t able to stay for the finish of the 5A District 3 baseball championship series Wednesday night at Rocky Mountain High.
His teammates made sure Harrison would still be proud of the outcome.
The Mountain View senior pitcher took a hit to the head off his first pitch of the fourth inning and was admitted to the ICU at Saint Alphonsus for further evaluation. Harrison suffered a skull fracture and is being monitored for swelling and potential brain bleeding, Mountain View Athletic Director Luke Wolf said Thursday afternoon.
The shaken Mavericks polished off the game in Harrison’s honor, rolling to a 14-1 victory over the Grizzlies to sweep the series and earn the first district championship in program history. Mountain View won the series opener 2-1 on Tuesday thanks to Harrison’s two-out single that scored two runs in the fifth inning.
“It was one of those things that you couldn’t even put into words when it first happened,” Mountain View senior first baseman Matthew Reynolds said. “After it happened, we knew right when we got back in the dugout that we were playing for something a little bit more than a district championship at that point.
“It was kind of putting Riley on our back and going out and getting the win for him.”
Harrison pitched the first three innings of Wednesday’s game and appeared well on his way to a victory with a 5-1 Mountain View lead as he stepped to the mound in the bottom of the fourth inning.
But Harrison’s first pitch of the inning smacked off the bat of Rocky Mountain’s Russell Wartchow and into Harrison’s head in a split second. He lay motionless on his back on the mound for a few seconds as coaches and trainers ran to his aid.
Harrison was eventually able to sit up and walk to the dugout and was then taken directly to the hospital for evaluation. On the way to the hospital, Harrison joked with his parents saying, “I knew I shouldn’t have thrown that fastball.”
“It was really neat to see how his teammates responded,” Mountain View coach Matt Rasmussen said. “They said: ‘Hey, we’re not going to let Riley down. We’re going to come through and finish what we started.’”
Even with a district championship plaque in hand, it was hard for the Mavericks to celebrate too much. They didn’t dog-pile or run wildly from the dugout in celebration of the last out. Their thoughts remained with their injured teammate.
“That’s really scary. You never want to see one of your teammates go down like that,” Mountain View junior left fielder Braxton Mills said. “That’s just bad. It’s really tough to see and go through. I’m just hoping he gets better.”
Both Mountain View and Rocky Mountain advance to next week’s 5A state tournament at Memorial Stadium. The Mavericks (24-2) open against Madison at 10 a.m. May 16, while the Grizzlies (19-6) face the loser of Thursday’s 5A District 3 third-place game between Boise and Eagle.
“These guys are hard workers, and we’re excited to be where we are, but we’re not done yet,” said Reynolds, who is committed to Northwest Nazarene. “This is just a stepping stone for next week. We’ve got something to play for and we’ve got a target on our back. We’re excited about it.”
Harrison is expected to remain in the hospital as doctors continue to evaluate the severity of his injury. The Mountain View softball team will have Harrison’s No. 9 written in chalk behind home plate for Thursday night’s 5A District Three Tournament championship game against Rocky Mountain. The Eagle baseball team also plans to wear Harrison’s No. 9 on their uniforms for their third-place game against Boise.
“His family wants to thank everyone who has reached out and sent their prayers his way,” Wolf told local media. “Keep them coming. They seem to be working.”