By Daniel P. Johnson
It wasn’t difficult for the Valor Christian baseball team to get runners on base. Bringing them home was another story.
The Eagles stranded 17 runners on base in their Class 4A Jefferson County League game against Evergreen on May 3 at Keli McGregor Field at All-Star Park in Lakewood.
The lack of production proved costly as Valor was unable to hold a 1-0 lead in the seventh inning, as the Cougars scored two runs to take a 2-1 lead.
Valor did rally to send the game into extra innings but were unable to win the battle of attrition as Evergreen escaped with a 5-2 victory thanks to a three-run 10th inning.
“It’s hard to win when you leave that many guys on base,” Valor Christian coach Keith Wahl said. “We put too much pressure on ourselves by not converting those chances and Evergreen is a good team and they took advantage.”
The loss dropped the Eagles to 7-2 in Jeffco, 9-8 overall. They ended the regular season with a league game against Alameda and a non-league game with Cheyenne Mountain.
“We’ll likely be traveling now (for district playoffs),” Wahl said. “We know that and we’ll be ready to play against anyone. Six of our losses have been against 5A schools, but that tough schedule was by design to get us ready for the postseason.”
In addition to the travel, Valor will enter the postseason without the services of its top player, Daniel Butler.
“He dislocated his left shoulder and tore his labrum,” Wahl said.
“Not having him in the lineup, on the mound or in the field is definitely a blow, but the guys that are here will have to step up.”
That includes some junior varsity call-ups, such as pitcher Matt Fontneau. Fontneau, appearing in his first-ever varsity game, pitching three-and-a-third innings of relief, and while he was charged with the loss, did manage to leave an impression on his coach.
“He did a wonderful job,” Wahl said.
The Cougars were stymied all afternoon by Valor starter Matt Whalen, but still entered the seventh only down a run.
Two walks and a single loaded the bases but after a strikeout, Evergreen was down to its last out.
Whalen’s pitch to Sam Grise was deposited into right for the game-tying RBI and the Cougars took the lead on a wild pitch.
Another walk re-loaded the bases and prompted Wahl to make a pitching change.
Fontneau induced a flyout to end the inning, setting the stage for Valor’s comeback.
“I should’ve taken (Whalen) out sooner,” Wahl said. “He pitched a great game; it’s unfortunate that he didn’t come away with the win.”
The Eagles tied the game on an A.J. Cecil single (he had four hits on the afternoon) and had the winning run on third base with just one out, but the next two batters struck out to end the inning.
Valor would advance a runner to second in the eighth and ninth and tenth innings, but just as earlier in the game when they left the bases loaded twice, were unable to deliver that one key hit to drive in a run.
The Eagles scored the game’s first run in the second inning on an RBI single by Jake Merrick. It was one of nine hits allowed by Evergreen starter, Jake Englehart, who pitched six innings of one-run ball.
Sean Imes worked the final four innings to earn the win. He allowed no runs on four hits and struck out four.
Evergreen 000 000 200 3 — 5 11 0
Valor Chr. 010 000 100 0 — 2 13 1
W- Sean Imes. L- Fontneau. Highlights: Daniel Lund 2-for-4, run scored; A.J. Cecil 4-for-5, double, RBI; Jake Merrick 1-for-4, RBI.