HIGHLANDS RANCH — Zach Paschke didn’t want to waste any time to give his team the lead against the top-ranked team in the state.
Mountain Vista came up to bat in the bottom of the first after Sam Ireland struck out three of the first four hitters he faced. Then Paschke sat on a 2-1 fastball and blasted it over the fence in left-center.
“It was the perfect pitch,” Paschke said.
That triggered a first-inning rally for the Golden Eagles, hung on late to get a 8-7 win over Cherry Creek on Friday.
“It’s always a good start (to hit a home run) and anytime you have Sam on the mound as well, to start it felt like our day, but when you’re playing Cherry Creek you never know,” Mountain Vista coach Ron Quintana said. “You have to play fundamental baseball.”
That may not be the best word to describe the game on both sides. Each side committed three errors in the field resulting in unearned runs being charged to each starting pitcher.
And that’s something that will haunt Cherry Creek coach Marc Johnson through the weekend. He is fine losing to talented team like Mountain Vista, but he’s not happy that his boys did it by giving away numerous free passes through the course of the game.
“Any time you give away 11 free bags, you shouldn’t win,” Johnson said.
It didn’t help that while Paschke and the Golden Eagles (4-0 overall) took an aggressive approach at the plate early, the Bruins (3-1) looked tentative against Ireland, a University of Minnesota commit.
Ireland seemed very much in control when facing his first five hitters. Two reached base on errors, but no damage was inflicted until a wild pitch let Jack Moss score from third to put Creek on the board.
Beyond that, Ireland was getting opposing hitters into holes early, forcing them to be less selective with what they felt they could swing at.
“I was just trying to fill up the zone, get them off balance,” Ireland said. “I was mixing in everything I had.”
Creek’s Jake Lawrence settled down after giving up three runs in that first inning. He retired six of the next seven hitters he faced, but an error from Tyler Schultz in the fourth got the Mountain Vista wheels moving again.
Paschke hit a RBI-single in the fourth which ended Lawrence’s day. The Golden Eagles scored twice in the fourth and twice in the fifth to take a 7-1 lead.
That’s about the time the Bruins woke up. Schultz started the top of the sixth off with a single and Moss scored him on a RBI-double to right-center field.
Moss and designated hitter Alec Adolph scored on a Brice Martinez home run that brought the Bruins within two.
“In the sixth and the seventh, they picked up some energy and got after them a bit,” Johnson said. “We had a few things fall our way.”
Ireland helped his own cause by reaching base on a dropped fly ball in right field. He scored on a Grant Magill single to push the lead back to three runs.
After Brennen Dorighi and Schultz reached base in the seventh, Quintana was forced to bring in Nick Englhard to close the game as Ireland had reached his pitch count limit.
Moss ripped a 2-RBI double to make it a one-run game with the tying run in scoring position. But Englhard got the next two hitters to fly out, putting Mountain Vista in line to take over as the top team in next week’s Class 5A CHSAANow.com baseball poll.
But that’s just on paper. Friday’s result just affirms what the Golden Eagles believe they are.
“We’re in a good position,” Ireland said. “I think we’re the best team in the state. I really do.”
They’ll have plenty of chances to prove it as their schedule lists four more teams that are currently ranked in the state’s top 10.