Ralston Valley slams way back to state

Brian Miller
Posted 5/17/12

LITTLETON - Talk about the perfect exclamation point to a near-perfect day. With Ralston Valley’s baseball team nursing a 6-4 lead in the bottom of …

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Ralston Valley slams way back to state

LITTLETON - Talk about the perfect exclamation point to a near-perfect day.
With Ralston Valley’s baseball team nursing a 6-4 lead in the bottom of the sixth inning of the Class 5A District 3 tournament title game Saturday, Nick McCasky stepped to the plate with two outs and the bases loaded.
“I was talking to Jimmy Coleman at third base, right when he was getting his lead,” Mustangs coach Shane Freehling recalled after the game. “I said `we have the right guy in the right spot up here right now.’”
McCasky lined a pitch from Mountain Range’s Cory Cyrus over the wall in center field for the grand slam, providing insurance in what turned out to be a 10-4 victory at Columbine High School.
The district championship punched Ralston Valley’s ticket to the double-elimination state tournament, with the Mustangs (15-6) facing Legend at 10 a.m. on Friday at All-City Field in Denver.
“Rolling off six in a row to make it to the final eight, there’s really nothing better than that,” McCasky said. “It’s a great feeling, but hopefully we’ll stay on the roll.”
Ralston Valley won its final four games of the regular season to take one of five spots out of the 5A Jeffco League in the postseason. After Mountain Range (13-8) knocked off host and No. 4 overall seed Columbine 11-3 in the district opener, Ralston followed up with an impressive 2-0 shutout of Grand Junction.
Lucas McKinney hit a solo home run in that game and McCasky added an RBI single to back Daniel Skipper, who tossed a five-hit shutout for his first complete game of the season.
Skipper struck out nine, walked two and hit a batter, but worked his way out of trouble each time it came around.
“I’ve been throwing pretty well all year. Today was by far the best,” Skipper said. “I feel like I had a little bit of zip on the fastball, the defense was playing great - it was a total team win.”
Mountain Range had ripped four home runs in the rout of the Rebels, and both teams picked up where they left off. Trae Russell hit a first-inning home run off Shane Meltz, but the Mustangs’ Matt Maestes homered off Daniel Jurney in the second.
Ralston Valley added solo home runs from Jurney and Skipper in the bottom of the second and a double-play groundout made it 5-1.
Mountain Range responded in the fifth though with three hits off Jurney to open the inning, including a run-scoring single from Zac Pelster. Cyrus belted a two-run home run moments after the Mustangs had a runner tagged out in a rundown to cut it to 5-4.
“That’s their strength, is their offense. I know they put up 10, and it will sound funny, but we felt like we kept them in check,” Mountain Range coach Jeremy Lustik said. “We had chances to get out … ultimately if they’re able to stay in an inning they’re going to take advantage, and they did.”
Ralston Valley’s Kyle Moore worked his way out of a bases-loaded jam in the sixth inning by getting Andrew Wamsley to hit into a double-play. That set up the bottom of the inning, where three walks and an RBI single from Kai Stalker allowed McCasky to put the game away.
Ralston Valley hit five home runs on the day to go along with six for Mountain Range.
“I’m just happy we won. I would’ve taken it in any shape; if I was 0-for-4 and we made it to the final eight, I would be a happy camper,” McCasky said. “But it feels nice - it definitely does.”
Now comes the final eight, with Ralston Valley the only program advancing that wasn’t a top-eight seed in districts. Games will be played at All-City Field and Machebeuf High School in Denver. Only four teams advance to the final weekend of play, where the Mustangs were the runner-up two years ago.
“The key thing is we talked all week about how we’re not just happy to be here,” Freehling said. “We’re not happy just to be in the district playoffs, and we’re certainly not just happy to be in the final eight next week. We’re going there and playing there to win.”


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