LAKEWOOD — On the surface, Valor Christian taking a 19-11 victory over Green Mountain on the baseball diamond in both teams’ regular-season finale looked a little shocking.
However, digging a little deeper into the May 5 meeting at Green Mountain High School between the top two teams in Class 4A Jeffco League is needed. Defending 4A state champion Valor (15-4 overall) wanted to get back on track after dropping a 10-9 decision to Littleton two days earlier.
“Our offense has really been playing well. We’ve been hitting the ball hard,” said Valor senior Joel Pierce, who went 3-for-3 with a pair of home runs and three RBIs. “Coming off the loss against Littleton we really wanted to come out and make a statement.”
Green Mountain (15-3) on the other hand was coming off victories over Littleton and Golden to cement a top-10 seed for the district tournaments Saturday.
Rams’ coach Brad Madden elected to throw his two best pitchers — senior Matthew Ramirez and junior JD Wadleigh — earlier in the week in victories over Littleton and Golden.
“We wanted to make sure we took care of business the first two games of the week,” said Madden, who threw four different pitchers against Valor in the loss. “Our league has been so up and down. We didn’t want to slip up and give one (win) to someone we shouldn’t.”
Madden knows a little about how to go about getting ready for the playoffs. He has coached three teams — Golden (2003) and Green Mountain (2014 and 2015) — to 4A baseball state titles.
“In the big picture you have to get yourself into a good position for the playoffs. Hopefully we did that,” Madden said. “It always comes down to seeding, who you get and who you have to face. I definitely think these are two very good teams (Green Mountain and Valor). I hope we get to play them again because that would mean are in the final eight.”
Green Mountain, Valor and the rest of the 32-team district tournament field was released Wednesday. While the Rams finished No. 7 in the RPI standings they won’t host a district tournament Saturday.
CHSAA’s Legislative Council voted last January that the top eight league champions would host the eight district tournaments. Since Green Mountain placed second to Valor in 4A Jeffco the Rams slipped down to the No. 9 seed and will head to Canon City High School for the Region 2 tournament.
“Laser focus on Saturday,” Wadleigh said of the upcoming state playoffs. “We aren’t trying to play comfortable. We are trying to play every game like it’s our last. That way you don’t get content about where you are at.”
Wadleigh not only shined on the mound with a 7-0 record and 2.48 ERA. The lefty is batting .500 with 28 hits, 22 RBIs and five home runs. He belted a home run off Valor ace Luke Ziegler in the loss May 5.
“We are two of the best teams in the state and today it was a battle of the bats,” Wadleigh said. “They came up on top today and hopefully we see them again.”
No. 3 overall seed Valor can lean on its state title experience, along with its bevy of talent, when it hosts the Region 7 tournament.
“It’s good to have some guys returning from that state championship team who can guide us in that process. They can put their arms around the new guys and let them know the (playoff) intensity,” Valor coach Brian Bonn said. “We trust every guy in our dugout. We’ve got 20 guys that can contribute and we're going to get better because we have 20 guys who can help us.”
The Eagles were nearly eliminated during the single-elimination district tournament last year. Valor needed to rally in the bottom of the seventh inning in its district title game against Northridge a year ago. The Eagles got a run in the seventh to tie things up and got the game-winning run in the bottom of the eighth inning to advance to the 8-team double-elimination state tournament.
“We’ve been there before and last time we almost lost. It was a scary situation,” Pierce said. “We don’t want to put ourselves in that situation again. We are going to do everything we can to prepare.”