Dennis Pleuss, Jeffco Public Schools
WESTMINSTER — Golden senior pitcher Laif Palmer pulled off an "immaculate inning" April 15 at Standley Lake High School.
Palmer had three strikeouts on nine pitches in the bottom of the first inning against Standley Lake. The Gators’ first three batters were all called out looking at strike-three as Palmer hit low-90s on the radar guns that were keeping a sharp eye on the Oregon State University-commit.
“I can’t recall, but that is the goal,” Palmer said of having a 9-pitch, 3-strikeout inning. “The goal is to go out every inning and strike everyone out. It was a good way to start out the game.”
Palmer finished with 13 strikeouts in his complete-game victory. Golden — No. 7 in the CHSAANow.com
Class 4A baseball rankings — captured its fifth straight victory with a 7-3 win.
“That was incredible,” Golden coach Jackie McBroom said of Palmer’s bottom of the first performance on the mound. “I’ve played baseball a long time. I can’t remember ever seeing that.”
Palmer was touched up with a solo home run by Standley Lake’s Brody Geist in the bottom of the sixth inning that actually cut Golden’s lead to 2-1 heading to the seventh inning. Standley Lake’s Colton Martin and Geist each had RBI doubles in the bottom of the seventh inning.
“To be honest, it doesn’t really bother me,” Palmer said of giving up the home run in the sixth and a pair of RBI doubles in the seventh. “It’s on to the next pitch and get back up on the mound.”
Palmer did just that. He was able to strike out the side in the seventh to finish off the complete-game victory and keep the Demons (8-4, 3-0 in 4A Jeffco) atop the league standings. D’Evelyn (8-4, 3-0), Green Mountain (8-4, 3-0) and Evergreen (6-3, 3-0) are all tied at the top of 4A Jeffco through the first third of the conference games.
Standley Lake actually out-hit Golden seven to five. Gator starting pitcher Ian Rasmussen went six innings, giving up just three hits.
The Demons used some slick base running in the fifth inning to take a 1-0 lead. Sophomore Jaydon Stroup scored the first run when he stole third on a fake bunt attempt. Standley Lake catcher Matthew Flowers threw to third, but with the Gators’ third baseman charging to the plate there was no one at third base and the ball sailed into left field allowing Stroup to score.
Golden sophomore Luca Casali led off the top of the sixth inning with a single and would score on a sacrifice fly by junior Kohei Shimada to put the Demons up 2-0 heading to the bottom of the sixth inning.
“We need to get going earlier,” Casali said of the Demons’ offense. “Once we get going we are a team that keeps rolling.”
With Rasmussen being relieved in the top of the seventh inning, the Demons took advantage. A pair of hit-by-pitches, an error and a walk set the table for Casali and Shimada to both deliver 2-run hits to give Golden a 7-1 lead on Standley Lake (4-8, 0-3).
“We got some clutch hits there in the end,” McBroom said. “That is what we like to see.”
Golden had only put up eight runs in the first three starts Palmer had this season. The Demons did put up 10 runs in Palmer’s first start in a league start, but McBroom would like to see more run support for Palmer who had thrown 31 innings with 55 strikeouts so far this season.
“I don’t want him (Palmer) to go out there and throw that many pitches,” McBroom said of Palmer throwing over 100 pitches in the complete-game win. “When he is on the bump we have to do a better job offensively so he can keep his pitch-count down and keep him healthy as the season goes on.”
Palmer has faith that the Demons will start to catch fire in his future starts.
“I know we’ll get them eventually,” Palmer said. “I’ve seen all of these guys. It comes down to really wanting in and having confidence up there.”
McBroom had that Palmer’s growth in his mental approach on the mound and his confidence has given the 6-foot-5 hard-throwing righty the ability to improve on his junior campaign where he had a 7-4 record with a 2.33 ERA.
“If feels good winning,” Palmer said. “If I have to go all seven innings I’ll do it.”
Dennis Pleuss is the sports information director for Jeffco Public Schools. For more Jeffco coverage, go to CHSAANow.com.