LITTLETON — Dakota Ridge and Columbine baseball teams began Class 5A Jeffco League play in dramatic fashion Thursday afternoon.
After Dakota Ridge (7-7, 1-0 in 5A Jeffco) gave up a 5-1 lead heading to the seventh inning, senior Jake Sansburn saved the day with a walk-off, two-run home run to give the Eagles a thrilling 8-6 win in the conference opener.
“It felt great,” Sansburn said of his walk-off blast over the wall in left field. “That’s my first high school spring home run. It was a great time to have it. I’m glad I was able to finish it.”
Columbine (3-7, 0-1) trailed until the Rebels batted around in the top of the seventh inning to eventually plate five runs to grab at 6-5 lead heading to the bottom of the seventh.
Senior Jacob Gimbel, the Rebels’ starting pitcher, helped himself out with a solo home run off Dakota Ridge’s ace Ryan Stohr to start the seventh. Stohr had only given up one run on two hits through six innings. Columbine got to Stohr with three straight singles, a triple and a trio of wild pitches allowed three runs to score.
“My mindset the whole game was to attack, mix up my pitches and keep them on their toes,” said Stohr, who came out after hitting the maximum pitch count and striking out his 13th batter for the second out in the seventh. “That last inning I was trying to be too perfect and attacking with fastballs. They took advantage of it.”
Dakota Ridge junior Gabe Diaz took the hill and forced a groundout to get the final out in the top of the seventh. Then the Eagles’ offense went to work.
“Crazy enough, I had full confidence in them,” Dakota Ridge coach Jeff Legault said of his thoughts after Columbine grabbed a 6-5 lead. “We’ve had a couple of great days of practice and have been hitting the ball well. They kind of had an attitude about them today and that is what I’ve been waiting for.”
Dakota Ridge senior Zach Parker faced an 0-2 count against Gimbel to lead off the inning, but drove a hanging curveball over the fence in center field to tie things up 6-6.
The Eagles ended up hitting four home runs on the day. Besides Parker and Sansburn going yard in the final inning, senior Alex Overlie hit a solo blast in the second inning and senior Ben Biffinger had a two-run home run in the fourth inning.
“We’ve been working on shorting up their swing with two strikes,” Legault said. “I think every home run was with two strikes.”
Senior Cade Akerfelds had a bunt infield single, but on the play senior Henry Fox was tagged out at third base for the first out of the bottom of the inning. However, the Eagles quickly ended the game with the big fly from Sansburn.
Stohr —Air Force Academy commit — leads the team with 19 RBIs this season, but the Eagles proved in their league opener they have plenty of talent around Stohr this spring.
“We’ve been talking all year that Ryan has picked us up and won games for us,” Legault said. “Everyone else has to produce too. We picked up Ryan today and that’s a sign of a good team.”
Dakota Ridge returns to conference play Saturday against Pomona (2-10, 0-1). First pitch is scheduled for 10 a.m. Saturday at All Star Park in Lakewood.
“It’s a three-week sprint right now,” Legault said of league play. “We’ll take the win and move on to Saturday.”
Columbine will try to end its four-game losing streak when the Rebels host Pomona at 4 p.m. Tuesday, April 23.
“It’s a tough loss. (Stohr) pitched a heck of a game,” Columbine coach Brooks Roybal said. “We did a good job rallying obviously. We got some runs and put ourselves in position to win.”