ARVADA — Green Mountain senior pitcher Trace Mulberry put out a smoldering fire Tuesday afternoon.
Mulberry was key in relief pitching a scoreless two and two-third innings to pick up the save.
“That was big for Trace. He has had some times last year when he struggled a little bit,” Green Mountain coach Brad Madden said of Mulberry who took over for starter Josh Ramirez in the fifth inning. “He has unbelievable ability. He did a great job getting us out of it.”
The Wildcats rallied from an early 6-1 deficit. A-West (4-5) scored a pair of runs in the third and fifth innings to trim Green Mountain’s lead to 6-5. Mulberry allowed just one hit over the 10 batters he faced.
“He (Mulberry) was huge. I could tell from the first couple of batters that he was (throwing) hard,” Green Mountain senior Cole Shetterly said. “He shut them up really fast. It felt like 1-2-3 almost.”
A-West had the tying run at second base in the bottom of the fifth inning after senior Zach Skul doubled in senior Lucas Ciaacco. However, Mulberry got back-to-back outs to get out of the jam.
Green Mountain (6-2) picked up a pair of insurance runs in the top of the seventh inning with RBI singles by juniors Wyatt Featherston and Jeremy Whorton to take an 8-5 lead into the bottom of the seventh inning.
“The tale of our season so far is we get hot early then we take a break for two or three innings for some reason,” Shetterly said of the middle innings. “We’ve got to get back to work and be consistent through the game.”
The Rams had just two hits during its early six-run outburst. Green Mountain took advantage of four Wildcat errors. The Rams’ three-run third inning came without a hit. Shetterly led off the inning with a walk. Featherston and senior Chase Upson reached on errors. Upson actually stole home to finish off the inning.
“When you aren’t swinging it great you just have to find ways to win,” Madden said after A-West actually outhit Green Mountain eight to six.
A-West coach Matt McDougal said Green Mountain is as good of a team his squad will face the rest of the season.
“I’m proud of the kids how they fought back,” McDougal said. “We could have caved there and been out of here after five innings and got 10-runned. We fought back.”
A-West had an impressive undefeated 8-0 record in 5A Jeffco last season on the way to the conference title. The Wildcats start their quest at a repeating as league champions when they open conference play 11 a.m. Saturday, April 11, at home against Lakewood.
“Everybody is kind of in the same boat we are in right now,” McDougal said. “I think our league is going to be wide open.”
Green Mountain finished tied for third in the 4A Jeffco last year, but went on a remarkable postseason run that ended with the Rams winning the 4A state title. Green Mountain won five straight elimination games during the double-elimination state tournament.
“Last year we really learned what it takes to play a full game,” Shetterly said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s the sixth or seventh inning with two outs, you just keep playing hard and see what happens.”
The Rams begin their conference schedule at 11 a.m. Saturday at Golden. Madden actually coached the Demons to the 4A state title back in 2003.
There are only three automatic postseason berths for 4A Jeffco. Without a doubt, at least a few teams from the conference will be vying for the six wild card slots to make the 32-team playoff field. Currently, five 4A Jeffco squads are in the top-10 of the CHSAANow.com rankings.
“I think we have all played so well with tough non-league stuff we’ll get some wild card too, but you don’t want to leave it up to that,” Madden said. “You want to make sure you take care of your own business.”