Tigers top Central to finish as top 5A team in SWL
By the top of the third inning Thursday night, Grand Junction High School baseball fans were hearing rumors of the Fruita Monument-Montrose game. The Tigers were tied atop the Southwestern League standings with Montrose and Durango, but needed a Montrose loss to secure the league title.
Eventually, the final score drifted into the bullpen and the bench, but coach Kyle Rush didn’t let the 5-4 Montrose victory affect his players on the field against Central at Suplizio Field.
The Tigers ended their regular season with 15-0 victory shortened to five innings by the run rule.
“We did it to ourselves early in the year,” Rush said of his team’s slow start this season. “That’s what cost us, really.
“We weren’t worried about (a league championship). We were surprised to still be in the mix, and we went out and played hard, and won five straight heading into playoffs.”
Grand Junction chased Central starting pitcher Ryan McIvor in the top of the third, and then batted around in a seven-run fourth inning. The Tigers had 13 hits in the game, including a home run from Tyler Gastineau and triples from Chandon Rose and Sean Rubalcaba.
Senior Steve Baldwin tossed a complete-game shutout, giving up three hits, and carried a no-hitter into the third inning. Baldwin finished the season with a 1.99 ERA and 59 strikeouts.
“We were going to get him out in the fourth but (Baldwin) said he wanted to finish it,” Rush said. “It was most of these guys’ last game at Suplizio Field. We have a 11 seniors and we got them all in the game and had a good night for everybody.”
Central finished the season on a sour note after beating Montrose in extra innings in April. The Warriors hit a three-game skid, losing to Fruita, Montrose and Grand Junction. Central graduates only five seniors and their starting lineup Thursday included mostly underclassmen.
“We just didn’t have our best effort tonight,” Central coach Chuck Yost said. “Against good hitting teams you can’t give guys free passes. They’re going to get hits anyway, but you can’t put guys on.
“This offseason we just need to continue to work and continue to get better and see what happens.”
Grand Junction now awaits district playoff pairings. Although they didn’t secure a league title, they are the top 5A team from the SWL. Grand Junction and Fruita Monument qualified for 5A district playoffs, and Montrose and Durango qualify for 4A. District playoff pairings will be announced Monday.
Montrose 5, Fruita Monument 4: Zane Hemond hit a game-winning RBI single in the bottom of the seventh for the Indians.
Doran Wood and Ty Burtard hit home runs for Fruita (12-7, 5-4 SWL).
With the win, Montrose (14-3, 7-3) tied Durango and Grand Junction atop the SWL standings.
Montrose beat Grand Junction twice, Durango defeated Montrose twice and Grand Junction beat Durango twice.
Montrose coach Landon Wareham said the teams are awaiting clarification from CHSAA as to which team will be the SWL champion — Durango or Montrose.
Wareham said Grand Junction was eliminated from being the champion because the next tiebreaking criteria is how the teams did against the next-highest league opponent — Fruita.
Because Durango and Montrose defeated Fruita twice, and Grand Junction split with Fruita, the Tigers were eliminated, Wareham said.
Lindsey Burneheide scored six goals as Fruita Monument defeated Battle Mountain, 11-10.