LAKEWOOD — Dakota Ridge’s March 21 game against Green Mountain left Eagles skipper Jeff Legault scratching his head.
His ace, Alex Ellison, pitched what Legault called his most complete game of the season. The senior right-handed allowed just five hits and struck out five batters.
Normally, that kind of output would be more than enough for the Eagles to pick up the win.
Green Mountain’s Mark Everman thought otherwise.
Everman proved to be a little better than Ellison on a gorgeous March afternoon at All-Star Park, holding the usually potent Dakota Ridge lineup to just five hits of its own.
Everman struck out nine, including three in the seventh inning as the Rams won a well-played baseball game by both sides, 3-2.
“We expect to score a lot more runs, especially when Alex did such a great job of shutting down (Green Mountain’s lineup),” said Legault, whose team fell to 2-3 on the young season. “They have a great lineup and can swing it one through nine. We just didn’t execute at the plate and I give all the credit to that pitcher; he shut down a pretty good offensive team.”
While the offense struggled to find its rhythm against Everman, Ellison did his best to keep the Eagles in the game.
Dakota Ridge led 2-1 entering the sixth inning but Green Mountain rallied to take the lead on Ken Treagor’s two-run single to left. Ellison did a good job limiting the damage as he induced the next two batters to ground out, giving the Eagles one last crack at a win.
Everman struck out Brian Vander Velde and Keaton Greenstreet to open the seventh, but failed to put down No. 9 hitter Ben Espinoza who picked up his second hit of the day, this one a triple to straight-away center field.
With the tying run on base, Andrew Melton walked to increase the drama, but it was short-lived as Cameron Pritchett was set down on strikes to end the game.
“He was spotting his pitches well,” Legault said of Everman. “We just couldn’t make the right adjustments when we needed to.”
Ellison was equally as effective keeping the Rams hitters out of sync.
Throwing his fastball with high velocity and pinpoint location, Ellison often worked ahead in the count, which allowed him freedom to mix in his off-speed pitches with a good degree of success. Ellison retired nine of the first 10 batters before allowing two hits, the second of which scored a run, in the third inning.
The run by Green Mountain cut its deficit to 2-1, as the Eagles had built a two-run cushion a half-inning prior, thanks to a little small-ball.
Espinoza led off the frame with a single and then moved to second on a bunt single by Melton. Pritchett sacrificed both runners up a base and Nate Lotze’s groundout to first scored Espinoza. Melton, who walked twice and had two hits, scored when David Whitaker’s grounder to third was booted.
“We worked a lot this week on small-ball, so it was good to get a couple of runs off of that,” Legault said.
The Eagles would generate just four baserunners the rest of the game as Everman retired the side in order in the fourth and sixth innings, while facing just four batters in the fifth and five in the seventh.
“He wasn’t overpowering us,” Legault said. “We just couldn’t get a hit. Sometimes, you have games like that. We have nothing to hang our heads about. We played good; they just beat us.”