Valor Christian baseball coach has eye on at-bats

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The scoreboard appeared to tell the whole story, but Valor Christian baseball coach Keith Wahl said there was more.

Host Valor Christian pounded out 18 hits in 4 1/3 innings en route to a 14-4 victory over Littleton on April 3.

“We brought the bats really well,” Wahl said of his team, which had a .364 team batting average after the season's first nine games. “We actually don't talk about hits. We talk about quality at-bats. We posted 29 quality at-bats, which is the best we've done this year. A quality at-bat is a bunt, it's moving guys over, its seven-pitch at-bats and things like that.”

The Eagles have bought into the productive at-bat philosophy.

“It's a tough lesson to learn but the second you learn it, you see how it works,” Valor senior leadoff hitter Daniel Lund said. “It's one of those things that once you figure it out, wow, this is really clicking and it's helping our team out more than me individually.

“If you advance a runner from second to third, that's a big out. It's not a hit but it definitely helps us. A quality at-bat is basically a way to measure how you are hitting. You don't want to always measure on average.”

However, for those who are only interested in what appears in the box score, Lund went 4-for-4 and scored three runs in the victory over the Lions.

“I just try to get our team fired up especially on that first at-bat,” Lund said. “I always try to have a good approach and try and work the pitcher as much as I can. As a leadoff hitter, you can't strike out.”

Cleanup hitter Hayden Gerlach, who is returning from an injury, went 3-for-3 with two doubles, a run batted in and a run scored.

Eagles starting pitcher Daniel Butler, who allowed seven hits but didn't walk a batter in five innings of work, helped his own cause with two hits and five RBIs.

After the win over Littleton, Valor Christian collected 23 hits, scoring seven runs in the first inning and six in the seventh in a 13-1 win over Dakota Ridge. Lund went 5-for-5 as the Eagles won their fourth straight game.

However, Class 4A Valor saw its season record dip to 5-6 when the Eagles were limited to three hits in a 10-1 setback April 6 to Pine Creek, which came into the game at the state's top-ranked Class 5A team.

“We had a little slip-up early in the year, but we're starting to come together as a group,” Lund said. “We believe in each other. Our motto is brotherhood.”

Littleton coach Micah Bernhardt believes his team will be able to shake its inability to get clutch hits. The Lions opened the season with a 3-0 victory over Denver North when Chris Jansky threw a no-hitter, but the loss to Valor was Littleton's seventh in a row.

“We're having trouble pushing runs across the plate,” Bernhardt said. “We're getting guys on and guys in scoring position. The more times they get put in that position, I'm confident they'll start coming through. Our defense has been solid. Our pitchers are throwing strikes.”

Ryan Ireland and Sean Wake each collected two hits against the Eagles.