Titans rip Aspen, reach playoffs
PEACH VALLEY — Coal Ridge High School’s baseball team continues to live up its new identity.
The Titans started out Monday’s game against the Aspen Skiers slowly, but their offense exploded on their way to a 17-7, six-inning victory in a Class 3A Western Slope League game. With the win, the Titans (8-8 overall, 7-6 Class 3A Western Slope League play) have earned a berth in the state playoffs for the first time since the 2008 season, clinching fifth place in the league standings and the league’s fifth and final automatic state playoff berth.
“This game was key for meeting our goal to make the playoffs,” first-year Coal Ridge coach Dan Larsen said. “I feel like we can compete with anyone with the right mindset, and now the team is expecting to win, which is huge.”
The Titans ended the first inning with a 3-1 lead but, in the second inning, the Skiers moved ahead. Aspen scored four runs off Coal Ridge pitcher Jake Solinger, putting the Skiers ahead 5-3.
That’s when Coal Ridge rallied and took the lead for good.
The Titans’ Richie Winkler started the third inning with a base hit, followed by an RBI single from Greyson Keener and a walk for Kevin Grivey. Nate Nelson loaded the bases when he reached on a throwing error. Aspen’s starting pitcher Alex Bush retired Zack Zordel and Emma Speer for the first and second outs, but Cristian Corona’s two-run triple three batters later gave the Titans a comfortable 9-5 lead.
A two-run single from Patrick Martin of Aspen highlighted a three-run fourth inning for the Skiers and brought them within two at 9-7.
Larsen switched pitchers after four innings and put Patrick Steinbach on the mound. Steinbach held the Skiers scoreless in the last two innings.
Steinbach delivered at the plate for Coal Ridge, too, leading off the fifth inning with a double. Solinger followed with a walk and, after Jerome Pizzelli flew out to left field, Corona put the Titans up 12-7 on a three-run homer that clanged off the left-field foul pole.
“When I saw the ball hit the foul pole I thought it was going foul, but it didn’t,” Corona said. “This win shows how much our team has advanced from the beginning, and if we continue to work together, anything is possible.”
And Coal Ridge closed it out in the sixth inning. Keener, Kevin Grivey and Nate Nelson scored. Jake Larsen hit a two-run single, and Steinbach scored the final run off a base hit from Pizzelli.
“I went from having a bad day to an amazing day,” said Pizzelli, whose game-ending single made him 2-for-5 batting with three RBIs. “With my last hit, I was able to get the last runner in to score, which secured our spot in the playoffs, and I know as a team we will go as far as we can.”
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Longtime Roaring Fork Valley golf club professional Doug Rohrbaugh is set to play in this weekend’s Senior PGA Championship at Harbor Shores Golf Club in Benton Harbor, Michigan.