LAKEWOOD — Wheat Ridge remained atop the Class 4A Jeffco League baseball standings with an offensive barrage Saturday afternoon at Keli McGregor Field at All Star Park.
The Farmers (7-2, 5-0 in league) ran their winning streak to six games with a 14-9 victory against conference rival D’Evelyn. Wheat Ridge is the lone undefeated team in conference play with Evergreen (7-2, 4-1), ranked No. 10 in the CHSAANow.com 4A poll, one-game back of the Farmers.
“It feels great,” said Wheat Ridge senior Nick Ricigliano of Wheat Ridge sitting in the 4A Jeffco driver’s seat. “We just have to keep it going and don’t stop. Go full throttle for the rest of the year.”
Ricigliano was a key piece in the Farmers’ offensive that had its foot on the gas pedal against D’Evelyn. The senior shortstop hammered a pair of two-run home runs. Ricigliano’s first blast over the left field fence put the Farmers ahead 9-3 in the top of the fourth inning.
Senior Lane Wagoner belted a solo home run to extend Wheat Ridge’s lead to 10-3 going to the bottom of the fourth inning.
“To be honest, I thought maybe first to four (runs) would win,” Wheat Ridge coach Adam Miller said. “It just didn’t start off that way. That is the capability we have offensively.”
Wheat Ridge had been swinging some hot bats during its six-game winning streak. The Farmers have averaged 10.5 runs per game since a shutout loss during their spring break trip to Arizona.
The Farmers needed every run Saturday. D’Evelyn battled back and closed Wheat Ridge’s lead to 10-8 after a four-run fifth inning. However, Ricigliano provided a loud response with his second two-run home run in the top of the sixth inning.
“I got most of the team energized and ready to go,” Ricigliano said of his second home run. “D’Evelyn is a pretty good team. It was just a good win against a good team.”
Wagoner pitched four innings in relief for the Farmers after starter Chase Powell went three innings on the mound. Wagoner gave up five runs on four hits, but it was good enough to keep the Jaguars (5-5, 3-2) at bay.
“He (Wagoner) has come in three or four games like that,” Miller said. “Not really a chance to warm up, but he throws strikes and does a good job.”
Defense was an issue at times for Wheat Ridge and D’Evelyn. Both teams committed four fielding errors apiece.
The biggest error that cost the Jaguars came in the third inning. Wheat Ridge junior Nate Sanchez ripped a single that scored Wagoner. Sanchez sprinted toward second base when the throw went to the plate. The throw from home to second base to get Sanchez sailed into centerfield.
“I think we are very aggressive on the bases and have some kids who can run. I think it causes a lot of havoc,” Miller said. “Today we got a bunch of extra bases by putting pressure on the defense.”
Sanchez and junior Garrett O’Keefe both scored for the Farmers on the throwing error.
“Take care of baseball. We’ve been struggling with that all year long,” D’Evelyn coach Dan Porreco said. “We gave (Wheat Ridge) some extra runs. It was a good ballgame. Everyone kept fighting back.”
D’Evelyn lefty Grant Witherspoon suffered the loss on the mound. The Jaguars did muster nine runs off nine hits, but could never grab the lead.
The Jaguars have time with nine league games still remaining to get back into the hunt for the conference title.
“With our league I think things are going to change the second go-around,” Porreco said. “Everyone likes to beat up everybody. We’ll see how it goes. We just have to start playing better.”
D’Evelyn is scheduled to host Arvada on Monday, April 14. Wheat Ridge hits the road Monday for its first of two conference games against rival Golden. Both are scheduled for 4 p.m. starts.