All about momentum: Schminke’s key triple puts Fruita Monument ahead to stay vs. GJ

Fruita Monument’s Nika Schminke is congratulated Tuesday night by coach Jamie Dunn after hitting a triple in the fifth inning to put the Wildcats ahead of Grand Junction and change the momentum in the Wildcats’ win.

Grand Junction’s Arrianna Diaz slides under the tag of Fruita Monument’s Mallory Paulson at third base during the Tigers’ loss to the Wildcats.

Nika Schminke and her teammates weren’t going to be deterred on senior night.

Although the Fruita Monument High School softball team made a couple errors Tuesday night and fell behind to Grand Junction at Bergman Field, the Wildcats stayed focused to rally for an 11-2 Southwestern League victory.

“We were down, but we wanted it so bad,” Schminke said. “We felt we wanted it more than them. That’s where the rally came from.”

Schminke led the rally, with a two-out, bases-clearing triple to give Fruita a 3-2 lead. She scored on Ashleigh Wissel’s single for a 4-2 lead.

“I was a little nervous at first, then the pitch came in and I knew it was juicy so I got on it first pitch,” Schminke said. “Right when I hit it I was looking for third, that’s all I knew.”

The four runs were enough, but the Wildcats (12-2, 4-1 SWL) wanted more to give the four seniors a resounding win for the final home game of the season. Fruita plays Thursday in Durango, Friday in Cortez and has one more scheduled game left in town next Tuesday against fourth-ranked Central, but the Wildcats will be the visitors.

Kendra Williams started another two-out rally in the sixth with an RBI single. Two batters later, Wissel doubled home two runs, then Mallory Paulson followed with a three-run home run.

Fruita senior pitcher Erika Chirdon (7-1) worked out of a two-on situation in the top of the seventh to pick up the complete-game victory. She allowed two runs on four hits, four walks and struck out one.

The victory keeps Fruita Monument on the heels of Central (12-2, 5-0 SWL) for the league title and possibly home for the regional playoffs, but it took a little perseverance.

Grand Junction (7-8, 0-5 SWL) jumped out to a 2-0 lead on an Arrianna Diaz two-run double in the second inning. The Tigers had an opportunity to add more runs in each inning, but left 11 on base.

“If I was in Junction’s situation, what do they have to lose?” Fruita coach Jamie Dunn said. “They played Central tough last week. They have good hitters. They came swinging to swing. I would’ve done the same thing especially with our defense tossing it up like it did.”

Dunn didn’t need to do anything to get the Wildcats going.

“Sometimes if I get too frustrated or nervous, they tend to respond (that way),” Dunn said. “I sat back and thought, just let them play. We’ve been practicing since the middle of August and on the verge of postseason play. You got to find a way to respond, figure it out and that’s what they did.”

The victory was especially sweet, given senior Taylor Johnson had to watch from the dugout with her injured right index finger. Johnson’s finger split open when she was hit by a pitch from Central’s Mikayla Duffy last week. Johnson still has stitches in her finger, but the stitches could be removed in time for next Tuesday’s game against Central.

“Me, Ashleigh, Taylor and Erika were playing for each other,” Schminke said. “Taylor is out. All I was thinking was I want this one for Taylor. It felt good to get that win for her.”


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