Valor baseball walks away with first 5A Jeffco League win

Valor junior Zain Zinicola, left, tags out Chatfield senior Luke LaChance between third and second base during the first inning Saturday on Keli McGregor Field at All Star Park. (Dennis Pleuss/Jeffco Athletics)

LAKEWOOD — Patience at the plate served Valor Christian’s baseball team well Saturday afternoon on Keli McGregor Field at All Star Park.

The newest member of the Class 5A Jeffco League used a dozen walks on the way to Valor taking an eventual 7-3 conference win over Chatfield. It was the first 5A Jeffco League win ever for the Eagles.

Chatfield senior Luke LaChance squares up a pitch during Saturday's 5A Jeffco League game. (Dennis Pleuss/Jeffco Athletics)

“It’s a first for us this year,” Chatfield coach Daniel Medina said of the 12 walks four different Charger pitchers issued. “We’ve been pretty clean getting guys on and off the field. Today we just weren’t around the zone. That was the difference in the ball game for sure.”

The Chargers (8-6, 1-1 in 5A Jeffco) also saw their four-game winning streak come to an end with the loss. Chatfield finds itself a game back in the league standings as the Chargers try to defend their conference title.

Senior lefty Ben Kornegay got the start for Chatfield, but didn’t record an out after giving up a pair of singles and three straight walks to start the bottom of the first inning. Valor grabbed an early 3-0 lead that it would never give up.

“We are a young team, so they are anxious to swing the bat,” Valor coach Brian Bonn said. “They did a really nice job of making sure they were selective.”

The combination of eight walks in the fifth and sixth innings allowed Valor (6-6, 1-0) to take a 7-1 lead. The Eagles actually didn’t have an RBI hit throughout the entire game.

“Anyway we can get runs we’ll do it,” said Valor senior Rafe Kinder, who walked with the bases loaded in the first inning and scored on a passed ball in the fifth inning.

Chatfield finished with seven hits to Valor’s six, but the Chargers couldn’t string together hits until the two-run top of the seventh inning where Jacob Roybal, Sam Low and Landon Gaber had back-to-back-to-back singles.

Valor sophomore Ben Whipple picked up his third win on the hill this spring with the Eagles' 7-3 victory Saturday over Chatfield. (Dennis Pleuss/Jeffco Athletics)

“We just didn’t have that big hit,” Medina said. “We had guys in scoring position. We left a ton of dudes on today.”

Valor’s sophomore pitching tandem of Ben Whipple and Deacon Nagy held the Chargers in check. Whipple picked up the win pitching four innings, scattering four hits and allowing just one run on an RBI double by Jack Kornegay in the second inning.

Nagy got a three-inning save while giving up two runs.

“Two sophomores who are really doing a great job for us,” Bonn said of Whipple and Nagy. “Throwing a lot of strikes, staying in the zone, not walking a lot of guys and they tend to keep batters off balance.”

Whipple has a 3-2 record with a 2.33 ERA. Nagy has a 2.69 ERA in 13 innings. Another sophomore — Radek Birkholz — has a 2-1 record with a 4.00 ERA.

“We rely on our sophomore pitchers a lot,” said Kinder after the fourth straight win for the Eagles. “They have been pitching amazing.”

It hasn’t been an easy transition to 5A for Valor. Before the current winning streak the Eagles lost four straight with defeats to Broomfield, Regis Jesuit, Legend and Heritage.

“It’s been a battle all season. These 5A teams are great,” Bonn said of his Eagles who moved up from 4A Jeffco to 5A Jeffco in conference play. “Chatfield is one of those great teams and we were fortunate to get an early lead today. It feels good to get this (league win) under our belt.”

Valor’s move up to 5A follows three straight 4A state titles — 2016, 2017 and 2018.

Chatfield shortstop Sam Low (4) turns a double play in the second inning Saturday. The Chargers now have an uphill battle to repeat as 5A Jeffco League champs after losing to Valor 7-3 on Saturday. (Dennis Pleuss/Jeffco Athletics)