4A baseball: Three teams still alive heading into final day

DENVER — Three days down and Thompson Valley, Valor Christian and Evergreen still remain in the Class 4A baseball playoffs.

Thompson Valley beat previously undefeated Evergreen 12-6 in the first game of the day. Valor Christian beat Air Academy 7-0 to advance to play Thompson Valley Saturday at 10 am.

The winner of the 10 am game will face Evergreen at 12:30 on Saturday in the title game.

Thompson Valley holds on in wild game against Evergreen

(Dennis Pleuss/Jeffco Athletics)

Mike Berg stepped on the mound for the first time in his life in possibly the biggest situation of his life with Thompson Valley leading Evergreen 12-9 in the bottom of the seventh of the 4A baseball playoffs.

"Honestly, I've never pitched in my entire life," Berg said. "I was throwing straight fastballs. I threw one curveball and it was just brutal. The coaches threw me in a bullpen earlier this week and I was throwing down in the zone. They said go out there and have fun."

And so he did. Berg closed out a 12-9 victory over Evergreen to keep the Eagles alive.

"Bailey (Porter) had an awesome game coming into that point, so I didn't need to do too much," Berg said. "He held those guys down pretty well throughout the entire game. When I got the call, I was ready to step in. They had prepared me very adequately for the moment."

Berg ended the game with a strikeout low and outside and was mobbed by his teammates at the mound.

"That's his first appearance on the mound for us," Thompson Valley coach Jay Denning said. "We had confidence in him, even though it's a little bit of an unkown, he's such a competitor. Whatever he does, he does full blown. He attacks everything with a passion. I have no worries about him going out to compete."

Thompson Valley batted around in the fourth inning and the Eagles took a 10-1 lead into the fifth.

Two more in the top of the fifth had Thompson Valley ready to end the game early.

Then Jack Patterson happened.

Down to its last out, trailing 12-2, Jack Patterson gave Evergreen life with a three-run homerun deep to left field. 

Patterson wasn't done with his game-saving heroics.

"When the momentum switches, it switches fast," Denning said.

He launched another three-run homerun to right-center to cut the lead to 12-9 with no outs in the seventh. 

Berg came in and sealed the deal for Thompson Valley.

Thompson Valley Evergreen baseball

(Dan Mohrmann/CHSAANow.com)

"Anybody that's left can do anything in a single inning. Three outs is a lot when you have team like this," Berg said. "We kept a positive mental attitude throughout the entire game. They come back, (Patterson) hits a dinger, he hits another dinger and all of a sudden we're only up by three and pressing a little bit. Everyone did a good job of staying even keeled and got us out of that one."

Thompson Valley came out aggressive at the plate, swinging early in the counts.

"The last game we played against them, we were caught on our heels from the beginning," Berg said. "For us to change up our strategy a little bit, just go up there and swing hard early in counts when you get balls to hit. That's our style of baseball."

The Eagles opened the door in the third inning as Berg got the inning started by taking the extra bag as the left fielder bobbled the ball for a hustle double.

Then, Kaleb White grounded a ball to third base that went through the legs of Jake Haefeli and into left field, scoring Berg.

Freshman Trenten Riehl knocked a two-out, two RBI double to push the score to 4-1.

"Trenton Riehl, I have to give that kid so much credit," Berg said. "He did an amazing job coming in. Up and down the lineup, everybody was contributing and doing a stellar job. I'm so proud of everyone."

Then the Eagles poured it on in the fourth. 

"By nature, our team is very aggressive," Denning said. "That's who we are: we run the bases, we swing the bats and we go hard."

Austin Sobraske had a leadoff double down the line to set up runners on second and third. Berg cleared the bases with a two-run double before Adrian Juarez singled up the middle to score two. 

Thompson Valley had six runs in the inning.

"We're taking it one at a time," Berg said. "We're going to take our time and enjoy this one for a little bit."

Evergreen solidified its spot in the championship game before the day started. 

Thompson Valley will face Valor Christian for another shot at Evergreen in the championship game.

"We have two options for starters and we're going to work through that tonight," Denning said. "A lot of it will be dependent on what we see this afternoon and who we're going to face. That'll all come out in the wash later tonight."

Valor Christian Air Academy baseball

(Dan Mohrmann/CHSAANow.com)

Ziegler lifts Valor Christian over Air Academy in elimination game

Luke Ziegler put forth a dominant effort in both facets of the game to lift Valor Christian over Air Academy 7-0 in the 4A baseball playoffs.

"Today was a tough game for our seniors. We knew that this could be their last game," Ziegler said. "We knew they really wanted to push it out and win. I got on the mound and was throwing strikes and trusting my defense. They did a good job behind me."

Three walks loaded the bases with one out in the third as Ziegler stepped up to the plate.

Ziegler singled up the middle to score two runs and get Valor Christian on the board first.

Calvin Schonebaum followed with a sacrifice fly to extend the lead to 3-0. Shchonebaum had two runs batted in.

Then, Ziegler got it done on the mound.

Ziegler went six innings, allowed zero runs on three hits and had four strikeouts.

"I tried not to do too much," Ziegler said. "Sometimes I try to strike too many people out. Getting groundballs was the gameplan today and I think I did a good job of it."

And again, Ziegler helped himself out and added to the Valor Christian lead.

"When we lost against Evergreen, I feel like I didn't do enough to help the team," Ziegler said. "I really wanted to come out and make a statement and do whatever I could to help our team win today."

An RBI double to deep left-center field gave the Eagles more insurance in the fifth inning.

But, Ziegler didn't need it.

The Pepperdine commit cruised to a complete game shutout as Valor Christian moved on to the next round of the state tournament.

"Locating my fastball and keeping it down," Ziegler said on what was working. "Getting people to stay out of the air and trusting my defense behind me."

Valor Christian added two more runs in the top of the seventh to cement the score at 7-0.

The Eagles will face Thompson Valley Saturday at 10. The winner will play Evergreen in the state championship game.