Skipper shuts down Tigers in districts

LITTLETON – At 6-foot-11, Ralston Valley High School junior Daniel Skipper has a tendency to tower above the competition on the baseball diamond.

When Skipper is on the mound, he’s even more imposing. Still, the right-hander hadn’t quite put it all together this spring — until Saturday afternoon.

Facing Grand Junction in the Class 5A District 3 tournament at Columbine High School, Skipper hurled seven shutout innings of five-hit baseball as the Mustangs took a 2-0 victory.

“I’ve been throwing pretty well all year. Today was by far the best,” Skipper said. “I felt like I had a little bit of zip on the fastball and the defense was playing great. It was a total team win.”

Ralston Valley (15-6), seeded 13th, defeated Mountain Range 10-4 in the district title game to advance to the double-elimination state tournament.

The complete game was Skipper’s first of the season, and his nine strikeouts were a season high.

Grand Junction (13-7) put runners on base in six of the seven innings, but couldn’t come up with the big hit. Pitcher Steve Baldwin had a double and single off Skipper, the only Tiger to have multiple hits.

Skipper’s height may have played somewhat of a role in the offensive struggles.

“I think for me, for my experience at the plate it was just a different look,” said Grand Junction senior Sean Rubalcaba, who was 1 for 3. “That guy’s probably one of the biggest pitchers we’ve ever seen. Just the type of release point and the angle that it was coming at, it was definitely a different look for us to see pitches.”

Skipper and Baldwin were locked in a pitcher’s duel until Ralston Valley’s Lucas McKinney hit a solo home run off Baldwin with one out in the fourth inning. The Mustangs added an insurance run in the sixth after Baldwin walked leadoff hitter Kai Stalker, who eventually scored on an RBI single by Nick McCasky.

Baldwin allowed only four hits in six innings, striking out seven and walking three.

“Steve’s been great the whole season. We just didn’t wake our bats up in time,” Rubalcaba said. “You’ve got to score runs to win a game.”

Grand Junction had a runner in scoring position in each of the first three innings, but Skipper worked his way out of the jam each time. With two outs in the seventh, Tigers sophomore Owen Taylor drew a pinch-hit walk and Jeff Hansen singled, but Skipper got Marcus Wirth to pop up to end the game.

Dakota Ridge 3, Fruita Monument 0: A.J. Valerio threw a three-hit shutout to end the Wildcats’ season at 11-9 in the Class 5A District 8 tournament at Dakota Ridge.

The Wildcats’ Doran Wood and Walker Williams combined to give up only five hits, but two of them were key doubles to score runs.

Dakota Ridge scored one run in the second and added two more in the fourth and left the rest up to the defense and Valerio, who struck out 12.

“It was a well-played game,” Fruita Monument coach Ray McLennan said. “We limited their hits, it wasn’t sloppy at all, just a well-played game.”

TRACK AND FIELD

The Grand Junction boys won the Southwestern League championship at Cortez.

Event winners for the Tigers were C.J. Deters in the shot put and discus, Greg Eccher in the 1,600- and 3,200-meter runs and Payton Glasoe in the 400 dash.

Grand Junction scored 143 points, followed by Fruita Monument (117), and Durango (102).

The Grand Junction girls (113) placed second to Durango (161).

The Tigers’ Jamie Derrieux won the 100 and 300 hurdles and ran legs on winning 400 and 800 relay teams.

As of Saturday night, Grand Junction’s 800 relay time of 1:45.87 put the Tigers No. 16 in Class 5A — the top 18 in each event qualify for the May 17-19 state track and field meet at Denver’s Jefferson County Stadium.

Other members on the 800 relay were Sabrina Trujillo, Whitney Jackson and Sydni Brandon.

In long jump, Jackson went 17 feet, 1 inch, a possible state-qualifying jump. As of Saturday night, she was No. 17 in 5A.


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