Air Academy drops playoff opener, will play Tuesday

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LAKEWOOD - Air Academy batters didn’t stick to what made them successful throughout the season and it cost them a chance to stay in the winner’s bracket of the Class 4A state baseball championship.

Now, the Kadets will have to go the long route in order to have a chance to win a state title.

The No. 5 Kadets got a one-run performance from starting pitcher James Verlinde, but their lineup scratched out just two hits and had three baserunners as they fell to No. 4 Evergreen 1-0 on Monday at All-Star Park.

The Kadets return to action Tuesday against No. 8 Golden, which fell to No. 1 Thompson Valley later Monday. The Kadets’ second game in the double-elimination tournament is slated for 10 a.m. at Bishop Machebeuf High School.

“We did nothing at the plate, tough to win with just two hits,” Kadets coach Doug Goldberg said. “Tough when your bats go silent.”

Evergreen (14-8) needed just 89 pitches from starter Ben Muscatello in dispatching the Kadets (17-5). He faced the minimum number of batters in five of the seven innings and was perfect through the first three.

“We got away from our approach,” Goldberg said.

Muscatello gave up an infield single in the fourth – stranding Micah Bregard at third – and a leadoff double to Kyle Chasse in the fifth. The Kadets failed to advance Chasse.

Bregard also walked in the sixth but was caught trying to steal second.

“I don’t think it was anything he (Muscatello) was doing, it was us kind of playing ourselves,” said Chasse, who also made a great diving catch on a line drive at first. “I didn’t think that he was throwing anything that we couldn’t handle. I think it was us trying to change our approach or buckle down too much instead of staying loose like we’ve been the whole season.”

Verlinde, meanwhile, scattered seven hits and walked three. The Cougars scored in the fourth on an infield single.

Despite dropping into the consolation bracket, the Kadets have plenty of confidence, even with the knowledge that one more loss knocked them out of the tournament.

“We’ve got the guy who led our league in ERA going tomorrow,” Goldberg said about Bregard.

“Whoever we’ve got on the bump, I’m confident in our defense and our pitching, we’ve just got to do a little bit better offensively.”