Mountain Vista battled through the loser’s bracket to win last year’s Class 5A double-elimination state baseball championship.
The defending champions again lost an early game this season but couldn’t complete the comeback as the Golden Eagles dropped a 4-1 decision to Cherry Creek on June 1 at All City Field and fell a game shy of playing for a second straight championship
Vista, ranked No. 1 in the state most of the season, finished with a 26-4 record. The Golden Eagles have gone 70-12 over the past three seasons.
“These guys accomplished a lot,” Vista coach Ron Quintana said. “What they did in the last three years might go down as one of the best teams in the state. We have a lot of seniors that contributed the last three years.
“Grant MaGill called every pitch since his freshman year, Drew Stahl is a three-year starter and Sam (Ireland) is a dual threat. I can go down the list... I don’t like just talking about one guy.’’
Mountain Vista, which beat Creek early in the regular season, took a 1-0 lead after Ireland singled home MaGill, who had doubled in the bottom of the first inning.
Creek starting pitcher, junior Nolan Livsey, retired 19 of the next 21 batters. He only allowed an infield hit and a two-out single in the seventh inning.
“He did a great job of keeping us off balance and we never got into rhythm,” Quintana said.
Senior Alec Adolph doubled home the Creek run in the fourth inning to tie the game and then the Bruins scored three runs in the sixth inning and went ahead on a squeeze bunt by Ben Perla. The Bruins used three walks, the squeeze bunt, a fielder’s choice and an infield hit to manufacture the three runs.
Mountain Vista handed eventual state champion Regis Jesuit its first tournament loss with a 5-0 setback on May 31 as seniors Ireland and Jon Zakhem paced the victory to push the Golden Eagles into the final day of the tournament.
Ireland pitched a complete-game shutout, fanned six and allowed six hits. He worked out of a bases-loaded, nobody-out jam in the third inning with back-to-back strikeouts and a popup to the shortstop.
“I’ve been in that situation before,” said Ireland. “I wanted to power my way through it and not give up a run. Those two strikeouts were big against their three and four hitters. They were probably the biggest of the day for sure.”
Ireland also had a double, scored on Zakhem’s 3-run homer in the bottom of the fourth and drove in a run with a sacrifice fly in the fifth inning. Zakhem, who went 2-for-3, collected his fourth RBI of the game with a single in the fifth.
For the season, Ireland finished on the mound with a 0.91 earned-run average, a 9-0 record and 60 strikeouts with 22 walks in 54 innings pitched. He also hit .425 with 39 RBIs.
Magill led the team with a .474 batting average while Stahl hit .391 with eight homers and 40 RBIs.
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