DENVER — Troy Benko returned to the form that helped lead D’Evelyn’s baseball team to the Class 4A state tournament semifinals last spring.
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The Jaguars’ ace had a 4-1 pitching record with a 2.92 ERA during last spring’s COVID-shortened season. However, Benko has struggled on the mound at times during his senior campaign. That all changed May 3 with a complete-game, 3-hit shutout against Evergreen delivered by Benko.
“They (players) were all screaming, ‘he’s back,’” D’Evelyn coach Dan Porreco said of the post-game meeting. “We have wondered where he (Benko) has been. He was 0-3 and not throwing very well.”
Benko faced only four batters over the minimum and threw less than 100 pitches in his first complete-game victory this season. The senior struck out nine batters in the eventual 7-0 home win for D’Evelyn (12-8, 10-3 in Class 4A Jeffco League).
“Yes,” Benko simply answered when asked if it was his best outing this season. “All my off-speed was working. My slider felt good. The curveball felt good. Fastball was good. I was just spotting it up. It felt good.”
Evergreen junior Justin Lipka was the only Cougar to reach third base. He singled in the top of the sixth inning and advanced to third base on a throwing error and wild pitch but was stranded on the bases during the best scoring chance of the game for Evergreen (13-7, 8-5).
“He was very dominating on the mound today,” Porreco said. “Evergreen is a really good team. It was refreshing to have him (Benko) back. I don’t think anyone really squared one up on him.”
D’Evelyn had issues scoring against Evergreen senior Carson King. The Jaguars left seven base runners on through the first four scoreless innings, but a hard hit into the hole at shortstop by junior Jack McCann scored junior Colin Kim from third base to give D’Evelyn a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the fifth inning.
Junior Gabe Rodriguez followed up with an RBI single down to the right-field line to score junior Heath Perry.
“He (King) is a great pitcher,” Porreco said. “We snuck this two runs in in the fifth inning. I think that deflated them a little bit.”
The Jaguars batted around in the bottom of the sixth inning to break open a 7-0 lead with a 5-run inning.
“After seeing him (King) twice, I think we definitely knew what he had and got on him,” said Benko, who was 3-for-3 with a walk against King. “We started hitting the ball well.”
It was the fifth straight victory for the Jaguars after getting swept by Conifer in a conference series that pretty much eliminated D’Evelyn from winning the league title.
“Right now I think we are really hot,” Benko said of the Jaguars’ 5-game winning streak. “I think we are rolling. We’ll get a good seed for the playoff and keep rolling from there.”
D’Evelyn jumped up to No. 20 in the RPI heading into the final week of the regular season after sweeping the two-game series with Evergreen and defeating a hot Green Mountain team on May 7.
Evergreen is No. 26 in the RPI after last weekend. The Cougars are inside the bubble with 32 teams making the postseason.
Dennis Pleuss is the Sports Information Director for Jeffco Public Schools. For more Jeffco coverage, go to CHSAANow.com.
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