4A baseball: Valor Christian posts big inning to repeat as champion

Valor Christian baseball team champions

(Cannon Casey/CHSAANow.com)

DENVER — Buehler...? Buehler...?

Defending-champion Valor Christian's Brady Buehler answered the call in the second inning on a 2 RBI, bases-clearing double in the top of the second of the Class 4A baseball championship game.

"We got a couple hits together, then I hit a double, got two runs in and my teammates picked us up," Buehler said. "Overall, we did a great job trusting eachother and trying to get a win."

Austin Howell followed with a two-run single up the middle, then Noah Kuzma added an RBI double as Valor Christian posted a five-run second inning to repeat as 4A baseball champions in a 7-3 win over Evergreen.

"It's special because it's my first one as a head coach," Valor Christian coach Brian Bonn said. "I've been an assistant coach for a while, but these guys had a lot of pressure on their shoulders. Once you win, you always want to try to repeat. These guys worked really hard in the offseason and they took it to the field and did a great job."

The Eagles' Zach Reid was terrific on the mound through four innings as he was able to diffuse each potential Evergreen opportunity.

"I was feeling really good the day before," Reid said. "I knew I had to wait, but I'm glad I did because it allowed me to rest. If we didn't do that in the second inning, I don't think we would have held that lead 7-3."

He got a double-play ball to end the third inning with Evergreen threatening, then shut the door after Jack Patterson doubled to left-center the next inning.

But the Cougars got through to Reid in the fifth.

"I've said all season long. 21 guys on our team," Bonn said. "All 21 of you need to contribute. And that's exactly what they did this year. I couldn't be more proud of every single person."

Andrew Stephens stepped up to bat with runners on second and third and Reid walked the bases loaded. 

Benjamin Setlak came through with a basehit up the middle that scored two runs to close the Valor Christian lead to 5-2.

Reid was able to get out of the inning, but saw his day come to an end.

"I knew they were behind my back the entire time. They trusted me and had faith in me," Reid said. "I wanted to live up to what they said and I think I was able to do it. That was nerveracking. We had faith and knew they would get the job done."

Ethan Zemla came in in the sixth to seal the title for Valor Christian, but Evergreen wouldn't go easy.

Valor Christian baseball team

(Cannon Casey/CHSAANow.com)

"I was sweating when we found out we were playing Evergreen again," Bonn said. "We give up a couple runs, can't find the strike zone all of a sudden, it starts getting a little antsy. For us to come out and continue to hit the ball like we have for the last two weeks was just the insurance we needed to put the confidence back into our guys."

The Cougars grabbed a run in the sixth on a balk from Zemla to head into the 7th down 5-3.

Kuzma and Pierce came through again with RBI doubles to give Valor Christian additional insurance heading to the bottom of the seventh.

"We knew we had to get some runs to finish the game," Buehler said. "Put a good swing on it, stay inside the baseball and get my job done."

Justin Estes came in and sealed the title game for Valor Christian.

"Our pitching staff, we weren't sure about," Bonn said. "They ended up being our workhorses all season long. Our bats came alive late in our season."

Evergreen pitcher Benjamin Muscatello weathered the storm of a 5-run second inning to keep the Cougars in the game with six innings pitched.

Muscatello allowed just three hits and one run in every inning besides the second.

The game was originally supposed to be play on Saturday, but was suspended to Sunday due to weather.

"We didn't like them coming in," Buehler said. "It was fun to beat them, fun to play them. We try to love eachother, not focus outwards. That was big for us."

This was the third meeting between the two teams this season — Valor Christian won the first meeting 8-2, then Evergreen won the second 7-5 after scoring six runs in the bottom of the sixth to beat the Eagles.

"We've been talking all weekend long that this has to be about us," Bonn said. "It has to be about focusing on eachother and our brotherhood that we have on the Valor Christian baseball team. We had to refocus that and that's exactly what they did and we were able to close out a very good game against Evergreen.

"One more game. One more time. One more opportunity. If we get that opportunity, which we did get, let's give our best effort."

And now, Valor Christian has bragging rights, winning the season series and the 4A title.

Valor Christian baseball team champions

(Cannon Casey/CHSAANow.com)