LAKEWOOD – Jesse Feldhaus provided the spark that ignited Ponderosa’s baseball team Friday afternoon.
Parker Eischen and Nate Whalen simply kept that flame going.
Feldhaus hit a walk-off, bases-loaded single in the bottom of the ninth inning to give the Mustangs a 4-3 victory over D’Evelyn in the first round of the Class 4A state tournament at All-Star Park. Ponderosa followed that up with an impressive showing against Evergreen, riding a home run from Eischen and four dominant innings of relief from Whalen to a 3-1 triumph over the Cougars.
“We want to keep our season going for as long as possible,” said Whalen, who didn’t allow a hit and struck out eight. “Especially being a senior.”
Ponderosa (15-8) advanced to the winner’s bracket game, which will take place Monday afternoon after inclement weather threw a wrench into the mix. The tournament’s other site, Machebeuf, only had one game completed – a Green Mountain victory over Erie.
Lewis-Palmer led Wheat Ridge 2-1 in the sixth inning when poor weather forced that game to be postponed until 10:30 a.m. on Saturday at All-Star Park. The winner will face Green Mountain immediately after for the right to play Ponderosa.
Saturday’s original schedule was moved to Monday in its entirety, because neither All-Star Park nor Machebeuf were available for play Sunday.
Ponderosa coach Bob Maloney said the extra day wouldn’t have much impact on his team, other than he may be able to use the three pitchers who threw Friday for an inning each Monday.
The Mustangs’ rotation provided a big lift Friday, allowing only four runs in 16 innings of work. Whalen come on in relief of Alan JeanJacquet with Ponderosa up by two runs over Evergreen, and the only baserunner the Cougars managed off the 6-foot-5 senior came on a walk.
Whalen struck out the final five hitters he faced, catching three of them looking.
“He was outstanding. The potential is there,” Maloney said. “That was his best outing of the year. He saved it for the right time.”
Evergreen (17-6), which edged Windsor 3-2 in Friday’s first game, fell behind Ponderosa early on a sacrifice fly by Rider Ghidotti. The Cougars tied it up in the second inning on a run-scoring single from pitcher Eli Ausman, but the team stranded seven runners in the first four innings.
Eischen belted a 2-run home run to right field in the fourth to give Ponderosa a lead it wouldn’t relinquish.
He almost never had the opportunity. D’Evelyn (20-2) led 3-0 in the fifth inning of the first game before the Mustangs broke through with three runs to tie it up.
The Jaguars had runners at the corners with no outs in the seventh inning. The Mustangs notched one out on a strikeout, then shut the door on the scoring threat after turning a double play on an attempted squeeze bunt.
With two runners on and one out in the ninth inning, the Jaguars intentionally walked Thomas Green to load the bases for Feldhaus. The senior lined a fastball through the infield to give Ponderosa the victory.
“I knew they wanted the forceout,” Feldhaus said. “I wanted that moment.”
“We were kind of dead and needed something to really boost us,” Whalen added. “That really did it.”
Other games from Friday:
Evergreen 3, Windsor 2
The Wizards took a 2-0 lead, but Evergreen found a way to rally.
After knotting the score up at 2-2, the Cougars scored the go-ahead run in the sixth inning and held on for the victory.
Green Mountain 5, Erie 4
The Rams led 5-0 early before the Tigers responded with four runs only to see the rally fall just short.
It was a third-consecutive one-run victory for the defending state champions.