TJ Baseball moves on to the Elite Eight in the state playoffs.
by Marc Houghton
photo by Ryanne Mollo
The Spartan baseball boys showed some perseverance and had a number of clutch performances in getting past the district round of the playoffs on Saturday, May 3rd. After blowing by Skyview in the first game by a score of 10-2, TJ battled a talented team from Cheyenne Mountain into extra innings, and came out with a 4-3 victory.
TJ was a little slow to start with the bats in their first game against Skyview, but they stayed patient behind great pitching from Sophomore Brennan "Bubba" Henry and saw their hitting come alive. Henry had consistent control all game, and allowed only two runs in five innings. Freshman Chris Van Dyke pitched the last two innings and shut down the Skyview offense, leading to a final score of 10-2. The Spartan offense showed the same talent they have all season against Skyview, and they were confident going into the second game behind their ace pitcher Dylan Smith.
After beating Mountain Range in their first game, Cheyenne Mountain carried some momentum into the deciding match-up against TJ. Both teams were fighting for a spot among the final eight, as the winner would go on and the loser would go home. Both teams came out strong in the first inning, Cheyenne Mountain scoring two runs in the top half, after two solid hits from the top of their lineup. TJ manufactured one run of their own in the bottom of the first, bringing the score to 2-1, where it would stay until the sixth.
Great pitching and defense from both teams led to a low scoring game with very few hits from either squad. The Spartans’ bats were working, and they weren’t having trouble getting on base, but they were stranding runners almost every inning, and not getting the runs they needed to take the lead. In the sixth inning, a passed ball with the bases loaded brought Junior Sam Thomas home, tying the game at 2-2. With the game tied going into the last inning, TJ knew they needed to play strong defense. Cheyenne Mountain star hitter Kevin Kimball, who had two home runs in the first game, had other plans as he hit a solo home run in the top of the seventh to give Cheyenne Mountain the lead by one. TJ went into the bottom of the seventh ready to hit, as both Tyler Thornton and Brett Nathan were able to get on base with no outs. After Cheyenne Mountain got two quick outs, Devon Fitzgerald came up to bat with two outs and the bases loaded. He hit a hard ground ball that was bobbled by the second baseman, giving TJ the one run they needed to tie and bring the game into extra innings.
In the top of the eighth, with Smith still on the mound, the Spartans got three quick outs. With the chance to score and finish the game, TJ showed their determination and their desire to keep the season going. After Michael Mankoff and Cooper Hearne both got on base, center fielder Kian Jost was set up to drive in the winning run, and he delivered. With a hard ground ball down the third base line, TJ took the win, and now move on to face Golden in the double elimination round of eight teams.
With Senior Pitcher Ryan Allen back in town and their offense going strong, TJ is ready to take their play to the next round. They will face the talented team from Golden on Friday, May 9th at 12:30 at Machebeuf High school. Whatever the outcome of the game is, the Spartans will play another game on Saturday. TJ hopes to keep their momentum going and make an aggressive run all the way to the State Championship.