An amazing season for Dakota Ridge’s baseball team came to a sour conclusion May 11. After overcoming a 3-0 deficit to defeat Brighton 4-3 in the district semifinals, the host Eagles lost to Mountain Vista 8-6 in a hard-fought championship game at Dakota Ridge High School.
Down 4-3 in the bottom of the fourth Dakota Ridge had the bases loaded with one out when Mountain Vista sophomore Marc Mumper struck out Eagles seniors Nate Liffick and AJ Valerio to get out of trouble.
Mountain Vista senior Dean Hoth appeared to put the game away in the top of the fifth with a two-run home run to give the Golden Eagles a 6-3 lead. But in the bottom of the sixth Dakota Ridge staged a comeback.
Seniors Dalton Berens, Nick Carland and Bryce Carson picked up consecutive singles to cut the Dakota Ridge deficit to 6-4. After a sacrifice bunt by Liffick put runners on second and third, Valerio hit a ground ball through the first baseman’s legs allowing the tying runs to score. With runners on first and second and two outs, Mountain Vista junior Dalton Lewis struck out Eagles senior Josh Lucas to end the threat.
Mountain Vista junior Dylan Formby, who hit two home runs in the district semifinals against Cherokee Trail, hit a two-run home run in the top of the seventh to put the Golden Eagles back in front. Lewis retired the Eagles in order in the bottom of the seventh to end the game.
After being expected by most to be around .500, Dakota Ridge (14-7) won its first outright league title since 2008 and earned a spot in the district final.
“This is without question the most enjoyable team I’ve had in 17 years of coaching here,” Dakota Ridge coach Jeff Legault said. “Everyone overachieved to win league and make the district title game. It was an unbelievable year.”
In the district semifinal game, Brighton used a hunt-and-peck rally to score three runs off three hits in the top of the third. The Bulldogs held that lead into the bottom of the sixth before Dakota Ridge got rolling.
With a runner at third and two outs, Eagles junior Bryce Evans doubled to left to trim the deficit to 3-1. Then, Evans scored on a double to center by senior Jake Ekman. A bobbled ground ball hit by Eagles junior Kaylor Greenstreet allowed Ekman to tie the game.
With runners on first and third and one out in the seventh, Liffick executed a perfect suicide squeeze bunt to the right side to win the game for Dakota Ridge.