Redemption was the only thing on Cameron Pritchett’s mind as he settled into the batter’s box.
With one swing of the bat, the Dakota Ridge junior more than made up for his earlier blunder, as he slammed the first pitch he saw from Columbine reliever Scott Anundsen over the wall for a home run
It was the sixth home run of the afternoon for the Class 5A Jefferson County League champion Eagles, and it wound up being the game-winner as pitcher Alex Ellison retired the Rebels in order in the bottom half of the eighth, sealing Dakota Ridge’s 7-6, 8-inning win on April 23 at Columbine High School.
“I made a mistake and just wanted to make up for it,” said Pritchett, whose error in the sixth inning allowed Columbine to even the score and ultimately send the game into extra innings. “Our lineup is stacked. Everyone can hit. I guess it was just my turn.”
With the win, Dakota Ridge finished an impressive 9-1 in Jeffco League play. The Eagles will likely host a four-team district playoff bracket this weekend.
“We can now breathe a sigh of relief,” said Dakota Ridge coach Jeff Legault, whose team’s 14-game win streak was ended by Pomona two days before the meeting with Columbine. “This was a good game for us to get our confidence back up. We can build on this game as we go into the playoffs.”
Pritchett also connected in the fourth inning, right behind Ellison, who slugged a homer of his own. Pritchett’s shot put the Eagles up 5-2 at the time and chased Columbine starter, Kyler Brady, from the game.
Anundsen, playing despite still nursing an injured hamstring, pitched well in relief of Brady, only allowing two runs on a pair of home runs. One by Pritchett in the eighth and the first by David Whitaker (he also had two homers) in the fifth.
Whitaker’s blast gave the visitors a comfortable four-run cushion, but it wouldn’t last for long. Columbine stormed back with three runs in the bottom of the fifth to draw within a run, then evened the game in the sixth.
With a runner on first and one out, Jeff Cicchinelli singled to left. The ball got through Pritchett and rolled all the way to the fence, allowing Steve Autenrieth to score all the way from first.
Cicchinelli also attempted to score, but the relay throw reached home well ahead of the Columbine shortstop, who tried running over Dakota Ridge catcher J.C. Ochoa to free the ball, but was tagged out and subsequently ejected from the game.
“I thought (Coach Chuck Gillman) would send me,” said Cicchinelli, who as a result of the ejection will not be available in Columbine’s first district playoff game. “I figured it would take two-to-three good relay throws to get me. They made the throws and I was dead out at the plate.
“It wasn’t a dirty play. I wasn’t trying to hurt him or anything like that.”
The Eagles threatened to score in the seventh, but a couple of baserunning mistakes left the game tied, ultimately setting up Pritchett’s heroics.
“We just always seem to come up with timely hits,” said third baseman Eric Cain, who was 3-for-5 and started the long ball campaign with an opposite-field shot in the third inning. “We’re always there for each other.”