LAKEWOOD — Back in 2002, Arvada West senior Danny Vais was one of the elite two-sport (basketball and baseball) athletes in Colorado.
Twenty years later, Vais has returned to his alma mater as the head baseball coach for the Wildcats.
“I’m excited to be back here with this group of guys,” Vais said Friday, April 1, after a non-league game at Green Mountain High School. “I’m excited to be back coaching in the city where I grew up. We just try to teach them everything that we can. I live and die with every pitch with these guys and enjoy myself.”
A-West (7-2 record) has more to celebrate after a dominating 18-2 victory against Green Mountain. The Wildcats cranked out 17 hits and was able to induce the 10-run mercy rule after the fifth inning to get back-to-back wins on back-to-back days after defeating Monarch 9-3 on Thursday.
Lead-off hitter and freshman Tate Deal was instrumental going 4-for-5 from the plate with three doubles and 4 RBIs.
“The tools speak for themselves,” Vais said of the freshman. “He plays the game even-keel the same way we preach to all of our guys. Play the game hard, but play the way you don’t get too high or too low.”
A-West held a 4-2 lead heading to the fourth inning. The Wildcats broke things open with a 7-run top of the fourth, highlighted by junior pitcher Seth Dreeszen helping himself out with 3-run home run to opposite field.
“Those innings are so helpful as a pitcher,” Dreeszen said of the Wildcats’ back-to-back 7-run inning in the fourth and fifth that pushed the late to a 16-run advantage. “I love seeing all the guys in the dugout get excited. I’m really happy to see everyone succeed.”
Seniors Mason Hagel-Pitt and Jaxon Gray, along with Deal and Dreeszen all had multiple-hit games.
“Offensively, we’ve got the guys to do it,” Vais said of the Wildcats’ fourth game this season scoring double-digit runs. “They did a really good job working counts and making it hard on the pitchers where they had to come back into the zone.”
Green Mountain senior Corbin Jantzer took the loss on the mound for the Rams. Jantzer pitched into the fourth inning before being lifted. Sophomore Craig Busse and freshman Demetreus Padilla finished on the mound for the Rams over the final two innings.
Dreeszen improved his record to 3-1 on the hill this year while holding a 3.23 ERA.
“To be honest, he (Dreeszen) has been doing that for us all year,” Vais said of Dreeszen’s his four innings of work while giving up just two runs on four hits. “He attacks the zone and makes minor adjustments from inning to inning for what the situation dictates.”
Green Mountain seniors Dylan Hearn and Caton Lodice knocked in the Rams’ lone two runs in the third inning that cut A-West’s lead to 4-2.
“I felt really good,” said Dreeszen, who ended his outing striking out the side in the bottom of the fourth inning. “I struggled a little early on. I tried to relax and get myself back up on the mound. Just had to stay composed.”
A-West junior Tucker Deal pitched the bottom of the fifth inning for the Wildcats.
Dreeszen admitted that he struggled a bit on the mound last year during his sophomore campaign. He worked hard during the off-season to have a bounce-back year.
A-West has non-league games against Rocky Mountain and Chaparral next week. The Wildcats begin Class 5A Jeffco League play April 19 against Columbine.
“I feel like we have a very good chance to put some good games together once league comes,” Dreeszen said. “Coach Vais has done a fantastic job since he’s got here.”
Green Mountain begins its 4A Jeffco League play against Wheat Ridge next week. The Rams (1-5) host the Farmers on Tuesday, April 5, and then are at Wheat Ridge on Thursday, April 7.
Dennis Pleuss is the Sports Information Director for Jeffco Public Schools. For more Jeffco coverage, go to CHSAANow.com.