Valor baseball powers past Golden to win 10th straight

Valor senior Ryan Barber, right, is congratulated by Rafe Kinder after Barber's solo home run against Golden on Saturday. (Dennis Pleuss/Jeffco Athletics)

GOLDEN — Valor Christian baseball fell behind 1-0 early to Golden on Saturday afternoon, but the two-time defending Class 4A state champions weren’t concerned.

“It’s great knowing that we have a team that can comeback from anything,” Valor senior Noah Kuzma said. “One run doesn’t mean anything to us. We are always able to bounce back.”

The Eagles (13-2 record), ranked No. 2 in the currently CHSAANow.com 4A baseball poll, answered in a big way pounding out 16 hits on the way to a 13-3 victory in six innings on the Demons’ home field. Kuzma, along with fellow seniors Ryan Barber, Declan Wiesner and Brady Buechler hit home runs to lift Valor to its 10th straight victory.

Golden (11-6) had its first three batters reach base in the bottom of the first inning, but could only push one run across on a sacrifice fly by senior Noah Mitchell.

Golden sophomore Ben McLaughlin cranks out an RBI single in the fifth inning for the Demons. (Dennis Pleuss/Jeffco Athletics)

“We came out of the gate really well, which is great and encouraging,” Golden coach Jackie McBroom said. “We talked about someone getting that hit with the bases loaded. Whether it be a single or putting one in the gap, that goes a long way. We can’t be content with the bases loaded and a fly ball.”

After a bit of a shaky start, Valor starting pitcher Zechariah Reid settled in retiring 12 straight Demon batters. Reid pitched four innings, giving up just a pair of singles.

“I think Golden was one of the first teams we’ve seen really want to hit right away and they did a great job in that first inning,” Valor coach Brian Bonn said. “Reid really settled in. The curveball really worked for him to keep the batters off balance. Golden is a great one through nine hitting line-up.”

Golden got a pair of runs in the bottom of the fifth inning to avoid the 10-run mercy rule through five innings. Sophomore Ben McLaughlin singled in a run and Mitchell picked up his second RBI with a double to make the score 12-3 through five innings.

However, Valor pushed its lead back to 10 runs with an RBI double by Wiesner in the top of the seven inning. Golden failed to score in the bottom of the sixth inning despite having the bases loaded against Valor relief pitcher, freshman Radek Birkholz.

Valor has already won a third straight 4A Jeffco conference title. A third consecutive 4A state title is clearly a reachable goal for the Eagles who returned the majority of last year’s state title team.

Valor coach Brian Bonn, left, gives senior Noah Kuzma a fist bump after Kuzma's home run Saturday. (Dennis Pleuss/Jeffco Athletics)

“This year we have an unbelievable amount of talent and our brotherhood is crazy good,” Kuzma said. “We have a bunch of seniors and a lot of guys who love to be around each other.”

Bonn credits playing in the deep 4A Jeffco League for getting Valor to the elite level in 4A. Valor will join the 5A Jeffco League next year.

“A ton of experience back and guys who know how to win in big situations,” Bonn said of his squad moving into the playoffs that begin with regionals Saturday, May 12. “I think playing in this league really prepares us well for the playoffs. We are thankful to be in the Jeffco League and having a chance to make a run in the playoff again.”

Golden hopes to tap into its postseason success it has last season. The Demons just qualified for the postseason and advanced to the eight-team double-elimination state tournament.

“We made a nice little run in the playoffs last year, but there in never a guarantee that is going to happen,” McBroom said. “We’ve got to be hungry and go get it. We can’t expect teams to just give it to us.”

Valor and Golden finish out the 4A Jeffco League Tournament with both facing Evergreen and Wheat Ridge next week.

Golden senior Jack McLaughlin, right, nearly tags out Valor senior Noah Kuzma at second base during the first-round 4A Jeffco League Tournament game Saturday at Golden High School. (Dennis Pleuss/Jeffco Athletics)