Dakota unleashes offensive fury on Evergreen

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By Michael Hicks

 EVERGREEN – Both Dakota Ridge and Evergreen have new coaches in 2013. That, however, is where the similarities ended, at least on Aug. 22.


One team – Evergreen – was coming off a commanding victory over Thornton in its opener. The other – Dakota Ridge – just squeezed out a win over Legend. But, in this one, it was Dakota Ridge from the start.

Cassidy Creekmore drove in six runs, including a three-run home run, and leadoff batter Dani Valerio went 4-for-4 with four RBIs and three runs scored in a 13-0 Dakota Ridge thumping of host Evergreen. The game was called after five innings due to the 10-run mercy rule.

The end result was a far cry from Dakota Ridge’s season-opening win two days earlier. This game was evidence of what Dakota Ridge, coached this year by Marv Van Lingen, can do when everything is clicking, Creekmore said.

“Yes, it is. … That is how we play,” Creekmore said. “We worked a lot this week in practice. From the game on Tuesday we just took away more reps, thought about it a little bit more and got all of the nerves out.”

Valerio echoed those sentiments.

“We just got all of our nerves out, relaxed and played Dakota ball like we know how,” she said.

In all, Dakota Ridge finished with 15 hits. The top of the order – Valerio, Megan Sansburn, Ballie Brooks and Creekmore – drove in all 13 runs. McKenna Pendergraft and Miranda Goepfert scored two runs each.

“They could hit. They could hit,” said Evergreen’s new head coach Mike Pucherelli said.

Pucherelli’s team, at least in this one, couldn’t hit quite as much. Evergreen was stymied by the pitching of Rachelle Foos and Creekmore. The Dakota Ridge duo held the Lady Cougars to two hits – a pair of third-inning singles from pitcher Ragan Wickham and third baseman Jenna McGoldrick. The only other Evergreen batter to reach base was left fielder Lauren Hawes on a two-out walk in the fifth inning.

While the bats weren’t in sync for the Lady Cougars, their defense –what they could do when Dakota Ridge wasn’t sprinkling hits all over the field – put itself on display. That was especially the case for center fielder Bianca Zitella, who laid out for a home run-stealing catch in right-center field in the third inning. The sacrifice fly still resulted in a Dakota Ridge run, but it also provided Evergreen with a highlight to cherish in what otherwise was an uneventful game.

“We’ll build on some big plays, a couple of big plays especially with our center fielder there,” Pucherelli said. “I don’t know if we’ll see pitching like that again. We’ll work on our hitting.”

Dakota Ridge, a 5A state finalist in 2012, is expected to be a better team this year than 4A Evergreen. But the Lady Cougars can use the game as a measuring stick of where they’re at and where they want to go.

“It’s good to see how we level up,” Pucherelli said. “We’re excited for the rest of the season.”