THORNTON -It has been a challenging week for Riverdale Ridge coach Ray Garza and his baseball squad.
The Ravens, who started the week undefeated and No. 2 in Class 4A, dropped all three of their games last week. Losing twice to league rival Severance 14-4 and 3-1 in a double-header on Thursday and then losing a tight contest to Niwot on Saturday 9-8.
“We have a big target on our back,” Garza said. “Everybody wants a piece of us right now and we need to play better.”
Riverdale (5-3 overall and 0-3 in Class 4A Longs Peak League) was on a terror to start the season, rolling through the Greenway Festival tournament in Arizona. They beat Peoria (Ariz.) 10-2, Moon Valley (Ariz.) 15-0 and Greenway (Ariz.) 20-12. They then returned to Colorado to defeat Horizon 12-11 and Erie 11-10. The early success helped the Ravens skyrocket from their No. 10 preseason rankings to No. 2, but it has been overshadowed by Riverdale’s recent slide - which has Garza concerned.
“We are struggling right now,” the coach said. “(Our team) doesn’t have winnings as a priority and it’s my job to figure out how to get back on the winning track.”
One issue has been the slow starts for Riverdale, as the Ravens fell behind early in each one of their losses.
Against Severance, the Silver Knights scored four runs in the first inning of the first game to put Riverdale in a big hole early. They held an early 11-0 advantage after three innings. The Ravens did get runs late from Dylan Hoodak, Dakota Aiber, Ean Abegg and Austin Williams but it was too late. Williams and Elijah Lofton both had two hits in the losing effort.
Hoodak, Ty Thompson and Josh Weber each pitched for Riverdale.
The Ravens had a better showing in the second game, but once again were down early after the Silver Knights got runs in the first and second innings. Hunter Hendrixson had an RBI single to drive home Alber for Riverdale’s only run.
Senior Jaiden Villarreal had a strong showing on the mound, he struck out seven and allowed only one earned run in five innings.
Niwot jumped out to an 8-0 advantage on Saturday and kept the Ravens shutout for the first five innings. Riverdale finally showed life in the sixth, rallying back to tie the game. Lofton led the rally with a 2-run home run and Hoodak hit an RBI single. However, Niwot scored the game-winning run in seventh. Lofton had four RBIs in the losing effort.
“It’s frustrating,” Garza said. “Hard pill to swallow, but I’m going to stay positive. Hopefully we can get back to the winning ways. Right now, we are just trying to stay above .500 - that’s going to be our goal.”
Riverdale has a busy week of league contests, with a rematch with Niwot Tuesday and two games against Thompson Valley Thursday and Saturday.