No-no combo: GJ’s Baldwin, relievers combine for no-hitter in win over Cortez
For Grand Junction High School pitcher Steve Baldwin, his long-term health is more important than one day of glory.
Saturday at Suplizio Field, Baldwin was throwing a perfect game through five innings against Montezuma-Cortez.
In the sixth inning, Baldwin walked Chris Black but got out of the inning without allowing another base runner to preserve the no-hitter.
After the inning, Baldwin was relieved by Charlie Reicks, who completed the no-hitter in the Tigers’ 8-0 win over Cortez.
During the sixth inning, Baldwin said he was starting to feel some discomfort in his elbow.
“It’s nothing too serious, but the trainer said I might have had a nerve slip out, and that’s why there was tingling,” Baldwin said. “I really wanted to finish it, but I knew there was a little bit of a risk going back out, so I was glad Charlie could come out and shut things down.”
Despite not being able to go the distance, Baldwin gave the fans at Suplizio Field a sneak peek of the future of Grand Junction’s pitching staff. The 6-foot-4 sophomore used a combination of a blazing fastball and a deceptive curveball to overpower the Panthers’ hitters.
Baldwin finished with nine strikeouts and only one walk.
“It was fun to watch,” Grand Junction coach Kyle Rush said. “He had great stuff today, he got ahead in the count and it was exciting to see what he can do.”
Baldwin was also very efficient on Saturday, throwing only 74 pitches. He averaged only four pitches per at-bat.
“He just threw strikes,” Reicks said. “He throws hard and was really feeling it today.”
Helping Baldwin’s cause was the appearance of a facet of the Tigers’ offense that had been absent all season. Grand Junction entered the game with only one home run in 18 games. Against the Panthers, the Tigers hit three home runs, led by Aaron Berk’s two-run home run in the first inning to give Grand Junction (14-4, 7-2 Southwestern League) a 2-0 lead.
Jayke Brock padded the lead in the fourth inning with a two-run single, and Sean Rubalcaba added an RBI single to push the game to 5-0.
Reicks hit the Tigers’ final home run in the sixth inning, on a solo shot to right field.
“When our four and five guys (Berk and Brock) get going, we can start scoring runs,” Rush said. “Everyone else was a little flat today, but those two were on and we’ll end up clicking one of these days.”
The Tigers will have to move forward without one of their strongest players, as second baseman Charlie Willett injured his shoulder Friday against Durango and won’t return for the rest of the season. Without Willett, Grand Junction had a couple of players pick up their game as Cory DeRush went 3 for 3 batting in Willett’s No. 2 spot, and Rubalcaba handled all of his chances at second base.
“Sean was there defensively and we have all the confidence in him,” Rush said. “Cory is a really good two-hole (hitter) for us.”