Gardner fends off Mill Valley’s rally
A parallel-to-the-ground diving catch was the difference between Mill Valley advancing to the Class 5A baseball regional finals and its season ending.
With two outs and the bases loaded in the top of the seventh inning, sophomore Alex Wilson ripped a screamer down the third-base line that was snagged on a hail-mary dive. Just like that, the Jaguars’ season was done with a 6-5 loss to Gardner-Edgerton.
There wasn’t much Mill Valley coach Jeff Strickland could say about it after the game. Simply put, it was that fine of a line between winning and losing.
“One thing I told the kids I’m proud of is this game wasn’t lost because of a matter of toughness,” Strickland said. “We played hard today. I’m real proud of them. We’ll get there.”
Toughness was the name of the game Tuesday in the regional at St. Thomas Aquinas. Gardner hit two solo home runs in the bottom of the first inning — a lazer by sophomore sensation Bubba Starling and a wind-aided floater by senior Ryan Sorell.
Mill Valley answered with four runs in the top of the third. After senior John Theis earned a leadoff walk, Wilson and junior Luke Lawyer hit back-to-back singles. Junior Bennett Ratzloff brought home Theis with a sacrifice fly to make it 2-1. Curtis Peavler loaded the bases with an infield single. Then freshman Jacob Spring brought home a run with a walk. Junior Matt Westin hit an infield single that plated another run, and sophomore Ethan Appleby walked home a run.
Gardner answered with a run in the bottom of the third to pull within 4-3. The Blazers loaded the bases in the fifth but were unable to score.
Junior J.J. Grovenburg earned a leadoff walk and later scored on a single by Ratzloff to extend the Jaguars’ lead to 5-3.
Gardner loaded the bases again in the sixth, and this time they scored three times.
Immediately, Starling was told to warm up. The team’s top pitcher then took the mound for the seventh inning.
Starling got the first two outs quickly, but he had to wait a long time for the third. Appleby earned a walk and Grovenburg singled up the middle. Theis worked a full count and then was plunked in the upper back to load the bases for Wilson and the eventual line-drive out.
The toughness down the stretch, in particular during the final inning against one of the state’s top pitchers, is what pleased Strickland the most.
“One thing I’m excited about is every one of our kids had at least one (at-bat) where they battled, competed, they fought and they won,” he said. “That’s a great thing to see.”
MVHS ends its season at 10-9.