Left Hand Valley Courier - All Local, All The Time

By Thorn Compton

Cougar baseball shocks in playoffs


Not many people outside of the dugout expected the 7-12 Niwot High School baseball team to compete with the 18-1 Denver North Vikings in their playoff game last Saturday, much less defeat them.

Luckily for the Cougars, they weren’t paying attention to what anyone else thought heading into the game.

“When we hit batting practice this morning, I knew something was different,” senior starting pitcher Ford Ladd said. “We were relaxed, not thinking we were going to lose. We haven’t had that atmosphere with the team yet this year.”

It turns out that calming atmosphere was all Niwot needed to complete their David and Goliath story, as they took down the third seeded Vikings on the Vikings’ home field in a cold and cloudy game 10-3, eliminating Denver North from the playoffs and handing North only its second loss of the season.

The game really wasn’t ever close. After both teams went scoreless in the first two innings Niwot started the third inning off with a bang, scoring three runs, two of them off junior Skyler Messinger’s two-run homerun.

“We played a good game today,” Cougar Head Coach Craig McBride humbly said after the game. “One of the keys of the game was weathering the storm and not letting it get out of hand on us.”

That storm came in the fourth inning, when Denver North finally started to get their offense rolling. They had bases loaded with one out for much of the inning, but Niwot was able to stop the bleeding and got out of the inning with a 6-3 lead.

The fourth was really the only bad inning for Ladd, as he went all seven innings for the Cougars, giving up eight hits and three earned runs while striking out five batters.

Four of those hits and all three runs came in the fourth inning, but Ladd was able to regain his composure and retired the next nine straight batters to lead Niwot to victory.

“When I get in a jam I trust my catcher [senior Tyler Meek],” Ladd said of his ability to close out the game. “I don’t shake him off on his calls, he knows what he’s doing back there.”

Not only was Meek fantastic behind the plate, where he also threw two Vikings out while trying to steal a base, he also had the clutch hit of the day.

With the game still 6-3 in the sixth inning and the bases loaded with two outs, Meek hit a towering shot on a 3-2 pitch that cleared the left field fence and gave the Cougars a seven-run lead, and Meek his second grand slam of the season.

“Big time players make big time plays, and we did that in some great situations today,” McBride said of his team. “The two-run jack that Messinger had got us going, and then Meek got in a great situation and got a crucial big hit for us.”

Senior Christian Cloar also had a home run in the game, his a solo shot on the first pitch of the fourth inning which started another three run spurt for Niwot to put even more pressure on Denver North.

Heading into this week, Niwot wasn’t even sure they would make the playoffs with their sub .500 record. Playing in an extremely tough division helped sway the committee to selecting them, however, and the Cougars proved that was a good decision.

“We had a good mindset coming in and a good week of practice,” McBride said. “We knew going against our league prepared us for some good play.”

In order to move onto the next round, Niwot had to finish off a double header against Erie, who won the second game on Saturday.

Sadly the Cougars weren’t able to continue their Cinderella story as they lost to the Tigers 5-1. The Cougars had runners on second and third with nobody out in the first inning against Erie, but failed to score. That set the tone for the game, as the Cougars could not seem to put the ball in play with runners on base. Meek pitched well, but Erie managed to score three runs before Niwot got on the board in the fifth. Erie came back with two more runs in the bottom of the sixth off Messinger to ice the game. Each team managed only five hits, but Erie was able to convert their hits to runs.

The loss to Erie still doesn’t diminish the accomplishment of taking down the powerhouse that was Denver North.

Niwot had a very up and down season, but the win against the Vikings will be one that many people in Niwot will remember for a long time.

“Its been a roller coaster season,” McBride said. “With the shifting of the schedules and the weather we have had, it wasn’t easy by any means. These kids fought though and they never gave up, they showed a lot of resilience and played some great baseball.”


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