ARVADA — Baseball can be a strange, strange game.
Dakota Ridge looked in perfect position Friday afternoon to score an upset victory over Ralston Valley, No. 7 in the current CHSAANow.com Class 5A baseball poll, in the semifinals of the 5A Jeffco League Tournament. The Eagles, fighting to grab enough RPI points to snag a spot in the 32-team postseason field, held a 4-0 lead through five innings with senior Cole Binder throwing a one-hit shutout.
However, Ralston Valley (14-4, 7-2 in 5A Jeffco) woke up its bats and took advantage of a few of fielding miscues by the Eagles (8-10, 4-5) in the final two innings to take a 5-4 victory at Nate Jurney Field.
“We just kept chipping away,” Ralston Valley coach Brad Madden said of the Mustangs’ rally in the final innings. “It was big hits by a number of different guys. That was one of the better team wins we’ve had for sure.”
Ralston Valley junior Trey Adams lined a 2-out RBI single in the bottom of the seventh inning to drive in junior AJ Jergensen for the walk-off victory. Adams was the only Mustang with multiple hits. Ralston Valley’s shortstop finished 3-for-4 with three singles and a pair of RBIs.
“We keep saying — never say die,” said Jergensen, who had a 2-out RBI single earlier in the seventh inning to drive in the tying run.
Junior Elliot Stern got things going for the Mustangs with a solo home run to lead off the bottom of the seventh inning to cut the Eagles’ lead to 4-3.
“We really had a better approach later in the game,” said Ralston Valley junior Calvin Hunt, who reached on an error and scored on Jergensen’s single.
Junior Otto Jones reached on a throwing error after Jergensen tied things up. Adams then delivered the final blow to give the Mustangs a second walk-off victory against the Eagles this season. Ralston Valley edged Dakota Ridge 4-3 in a conference opener back on April 10.
“It’s frustrating because we were in control and our defense just let us down,” Dakota Ridge coach Jeff Legault said. “Three errors in the last two innings, that’s been our Achilles heel. We thought we were over it, obviously not.”
Hunt pitched 5 and 2/3 innings for the Mustangs. He was able to settle in after giving up four runnings in the first three innings. Sophomore lefty Billy Wall actually picked up the victory retiring all four batters he faced.
The win, coupled with No. 8 Chatfield (12-6, 7-2) getting upset by Lakewood 9-2 in the other semifinal Friday, Ralston Valley hosts Lakewood (10-8, 5-4) at 11 a.m. Saturday in the 5A Jeffco Tournament title game.
“We’ll hopefully go out tomorrow and take care of business,” Madden said of facing Lakewood. “In the big picture all that matters is RPI, seed and draw.”
While winning a league title would be nice, it’s not the end goal for Ralston Valley.
“League is one of our goals, but if that doesn’t work out we have bigger goals ahead of us,” Jergensen said.
Chatfield hosts rival Dakota Ridge in the third-place game tomorrow. The Chargers could still win the league title if they defeat the Eagles since Chatfield has the head-to-head victory over Ralston Valley during league play.
Legault believes it will be a must-win situation for Dakota Ridge, who defeated Chatfield 13-9 last week.
“Our kids have been resilient all year. Lately we’ve been playing really good,” Legault said heading into Saturday’s third-place game and on the bubble to make the postseason. “Hopefully we do have a bounce back because I believe tomorrow is a playoff game. It’s win or stay home.”