LITTLETON — Arvada West baseball stayed within shouting distance of Valor Christian in the race for the Class 5A Jeffco League title Tuesday.

The Wildcats (12-6, 4-1 in league) took a dominating 11-1 road victory against Dakota Ridge to stay one game behind league leading and defending 5A state champion Valor (12-6, 5-0).

Valor’s 5-1 win over Chatfield and A-West’s victory Tuesday put a little separation atop the conference standings. The Wildcats are alone in second place in the league with two conference games remaining. Valor would need to lose to Dakota Ridge and Bear Creek this week to give A-West a shot to win the league title since the Eagles defeated the Wildcats 4-2 in their league meeting last week.

“Every single game presents new challenges,” A-West coach Danny Vais said as the Wildcats moving into the final two weeks of the regular season. “This is a group of guys where it doesn’t matter if we are playing a meaningless non-conference game or a big game in conference play. We are always trying to get better.”

Photo by Dennis Pleuss/Jeffco Public Schools

A-West has improved. The Wildcats have won 6-of-7 games heading into their big rivalry game at 4 p.m. Thursday, May 2, against Ralston Valley (10-7, 3-2).

“It is really difficult to not think about that game when how much energy and emotion goes into that game with rivals,” A-West junior Jordan Stremel said of the showdown at home against Ralston Valley coming up this week. “This was a big one to get some momentum and get a mercy-rule game into a big.”

Stremel was instrumental in A-West closing out a 10-run victory in five innings against Dakota Ridge. The junior belted a 2-run home run off Dakota Ridge starting pitcher Braden Johnson in the top of the second inning to give the Wildcats a 3-0 lead.

“I fought off a few and was trying to have a good at-bat early in game,” Stremel said. “He hung one. I didn’t think I got it off the bat, but it carried and went out.”

Dakota Ridge got a run back in the bottom of the second inning after a pair of singles by seniors Michael O’Brien and Jake Marquez, but that was all the scoring the Eagles (8-10, 3-2) could muster. A-West freshman Cooper Vais, son of Coach Vais, tossed a complete 5-inning game allowing six hits and just the lone run.

Photo by Dennis Pleuss/Jeffco Public Schools

“Cooper has been our guy all year,” Stremel said of the freshman who has a 5-1 record with a sub 2.00 ERA. “I have full confidence every time he takes the mound he is going to shut it down.”

A-West quickly responded to Dakota Ridge scoring with a monster 6-run top of the third inning to snag a 9-1 lead. The Wildcats opened the inning with six straight hits. Sophomore Brayden Reiner had a 2-run double, Stremel stayed hot with an RBI single and junior Tate Deal ripped an RBI double.

“With these group of guys it just takes awhile,” Coach Vais said of the Wildcats basketball players Vais, Stremel and Dane Reed who have taken a little bit to get into the swing of things. “We’ve got three guys coming off a good basketball year, not really doing a ton of hitting during the offseason, no matter how hard you try. Hopefully we are finding our groove.”

Reed went 2-for-3 from the plate with an RBI. Vais helped out himself getting an RBI when he was hit-by-pitch in the Wildcats’ 7-run inning. Junior Jordan Hamblin had the defensive play of the game with a diving catch off of the bat of Dakota Ridge senior Cade Collins in the fourth inning.

“That brought a lot of momentum for us,” Vais said of the defensive gem in the third inning after the Wildcats pounced to a 9-1 lead. “Our defense was great today.”

Dakota Ridge is now in a 3-way tie for third in the 5A Jeffco standings with Chatfield and Ralston Valley. The Eagles are on the road against Valor (Thursday) and Ralston Valley (Saturday).

A-West closes out league play at home Thursday against Ralston Valley and at Chatfield on Saturday. The bracketed 5A Jeffco League tournament will be played May 7, 9 and 11 next week before regionals tournaments on May 17 and 18.

“To go 3-0 this week would be huge,” Stremel said. “This program hasn’t been in this position for awhile. We have all the guys we need to do something crazy.”