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Denham Ks 14 to win NCS first-round matchup

By Jared Green Daily Planet Staff
Thursday May 24, 2001

The Berkeley High baseball team lost its last four regular season games, dropping from a tie for first place in the ACCAL to a tie for third. They barely scraped into the North Coast Section 3A East Bay playoffs, getting the 16th and last seed. And on Tuesday, they paid dearly for that slide. 

Facing No.1 seed Deer Valley, the ’Jackets knew they were in for a tough game. But they probably didn’t expect to be shut out for just the second time this season. That’s just what happened, as Wolverine ace Daniel Denham dominated them with 14 strikeouts while giving up just four hits in guiding his team to a 4-0 win at Diablo Valley College. 

Denham’s opposite number was Berkeley’s Moses Kopmar, who had been out for two weeks with a groin injury. Kopmar looked good early, but struggled with his control, walking six and hitting two batters before being lifted in the fifth inning. In fact, the Wolverines’ first two runs came without a hit. In the first inning, Kopmar hit Eric King with two outs. King stole second, then came all the way around to score when Berkeley catcher Paco Flores couldn’t track down a wild pitch. 

In the fourth, Kopmar loaded the bases on two walks and a single, and Tommy Wolf scored on another wild pitch. Although he hit the next batter, Kopmar managed to pitch out of the jam. 

Berkeley head coach Tim Moellering said Kopmar earned the start with his hard work throughout the year. 

“He really wanted to pitch today,” Moellering said. “He was really up for it, and he was well-rested.” 

The wheels came off in the fifth, as Kopmar loaded the bases on three straight walks. Third baseman Eirik Kingston came through with a two-run single to break the game open, and that was more than Denham would need. 

The Berkeley hitters spent most of the day flailing wildly at Denham’s deliveries, as the senior mixed up his fastball with precision breaking balls. Only second baseman Lee Franklin managed more than one hit, and the ’Jackets didn’t get a single extra-base hit. In fact, no Berkeley runner made it to third base for the entire game. 

“He probably threw 80 percent fastballs today,” Deer Valley head coach Dennis Luquet said, noting that Denham is expected to be a first-round pick in the upcoming Major League Baseball amateur draft. “When he can move it inside and outside, he’s awful tough to hit, and then he can go to the curve and slider.” 

Luquet decided to throw his ace to open the playoffs because last year, he sat Denham in anticipation of a showdown with powerful Bishop O’Dowd. When the Wolverines lost in the opener, Luquet was criticized in the media. 

“I wasn’t going to read my name in the paper for seven straight days like last year,” he said. 

Berkeley’s best chance came in the fifth inning. Down just two runs, Bennie Goldenberg hit a one-out single. After Denham struck out pinch hitter Jeremy LeBeau, Frankin bounced a single over the infield. But Denham dug deep and struck out DeAndre Miller, and the ’Jackets wouldn’t threaten again. 

“We had our chances, but we needed to capitalize and we didn’t quite do it,” Moellering said. “We obviously weren’t going to score a whole bunch, but we could have gotten a couple.” 

Moellering praised his players for a good effort after falling so far in the final games of the regular season. They made just one error on Tuesday, and several players made heads-up plays in the field. It was a far cry from their struggles of the past two weeks, but they just went up against a pitcher they couldn’t hit. 

“If we have to lose a game to end the season, as most teams do, this was a much better way to go out than last Friday was,” he said.