Dakota Ridge suffers loss in 5A Jeffco opener

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By Dennis Pleuss
Jeffco Public Schools

ARVADA — If Tuesday afternoon at Nate Jurney Field was any indiction, Class 5A Jeffco League baseball is going to be very entertaining over the next four weeks.
Ralston Valley, No. 9 in the latest CHSAANow.com 5A baseball poll, started conference play with a walk-off 4-3 victory at home against Dakota Ridge. Sophomore Billy Wall came through with a hard-hit single in the bottom of the seventh inning to score junior Otto Jones from second base.
“I had been struggling the whole game and couldn’t get any hard contact,” admitted Wall, who was zero-for-three with two strikeouts before getting mobbed by teammates after the walk-off hit. “I went back to what we talk about in practice with going (opposite field).”
The lefty hammered a hard shot left of second base off of Dakota Ridge junior Tyler Meyers to start conference play off the right way for the Mustangs (8-2, 1-0 in league).
“He (Wall) drives the ball the other way a lot, and we’ve been working on it a lot in practice,” Ralston Valley coach Brad Madden said. “He stayed right through that ball and got it into the gap.”
The Mustangs outhit the Eagles (4-6, 0-1) by a count of 10 to four, but Dakota Ridge got out to a 2-0 lead. A walk to Reece Davern, ground-rule double by Jason Kramlich and a hard-hit by junior Alex Overlie that couldn’t be handled by Wall at first base drove in Davern and Kramlich in the top of the third inning.
Ralston Valley ended up stranding the bases loaded in the third, fourth and sixth innings.
“I think we showed if you play all seven innings good things happen,” Ralston Valley junior AJ Jergensen said.
Jergensen finally got the Mustangs on the scoreboard with a two-run triple in the bottom of the fourth inning that drove in Jones and junior Elliot Stern. Jergensen has moved up into the leadoff position for the Mustangs after starting the season in the heart of Ralston Valley’s lineup.
“I’ve been struggling a little bit, but I know my teammates and Coach Madden believe in me,” Jergensen said about his key two-run triple. “We have been preaching about having a strong approach every time at the plate, and it worked out for me on that one.”
Jergensen scored later in the fourth inning on a throwing error on a grounder by senior Sam Lennarson that allowed the Mustangs to take a 3-2 lead. Dakota Ridge tied things up 3-3 in the top of the sixth inning with an RBI single by junior Gabe Kerrick that scored senior Jake Collins.
Starting pitchers — Ralston Valley junior Calvin Hunt and Dakota Ridge junior Ryan Stohr — both ended up with no decisions. Hunt went six innings, striking out nine. Lennarson and junior Trey Adams combined to pitch the seventh inning for the Mustangs.
“Calvin is the heart of this team,” Jergensen said. “We know every time he steps onto the mound he is going to give 100 percent. He did that today.”
Stohr was solid, but only went four innings because of a high pitch count. Madden felt fortunate to get the victory going up against Stohr.
“Every (league) game is big, and Dakota Ridge’s No. 1 pitcher (Ryan Stohr) is a stud,” Madden said. “To get a win with him on the bump for them was big for us.”
The Mustangs have won seven straight games. Ralston Valley continues league play Thursday with a road game against Bear Creek (5-4-1, 0-1). The Bears lost their league opener against Arvada West. The Wildcats scored 11 runs in the sixth inning to take a 20-11 victory Tuesday.
Dakota Ridge has played one of the toughest schedules in 5A. The Eagles have lost to four teams — Cherry Creek, Legend, Mountain Vista and Ralston Valley — all currently ranked in the top 10.
“This is Jeffco,” Dakota Ridge coach Jeff Legault said after the close loss. “This is how it’s going to be. I think every game is going to be like this.”
Dakota Ridge stays on the road to face Lakewood (4-5, 0-1) on Thursday afternoon.
It would be hard pressed to have a conference race as tight as it was last year in 5A Jeffco. Bear Creek, Chatfield, Dakota Ridge and Ralston Valley ended in a four-way tie atop the league with all four finishing with 6-4 conference records.
Dakota Ridge was the lone 5A Jeffco team to advance to the 8-team, double-elimination state tournament. The Eagles suffered losses to Mountain Vista and Legend to end their postseason run.

Dennis Pleuss is a communications specialist for Jeffco Public Schools.