Bats go cold

Gene Taylor's hitters shut down by Brighton pitchers

Zane Abeyta from Gene Taylor’s backs away from an inside pitch Thursday during a loss to Brighton at Canyon View Park. Brighton swept the Legion A doubleheader, winning 7-2 and 7-1 behind the pitching of James Smith and Brian Kelley, who limited Gene Taylor’s to 11 hits.

Gene Taylor’s second baseman Owen Taylor forces out Brighton’s Ty Archuleta on Thursday in the fifth inning. Taylor’s relay throw to first base wasn’t in time to complete the double play.

There’s no disputing the Gene Taylor’s American Legion baseball team can hit. Poor pitches made to the likes of Caden Woods, Kyle Serrano, Owen Taylor and Co. get punished.

That makes what Brighton did Thursday impressive. Realizing the Gene Taylor’s lineup is not one to trifle with, Brighton didn’t trifle. Bulldogs coach Josh Mondragon sent his two best pitchers to the mound, James Smith and Brian Kelley, and they limited Gene Taylor’s to 11 hits and three runs as the Bulldogs (26-5) swept a Colorado American Legion A League doubleheader, 7-2, 7-1 at Canyon View Park.

“We got a heck of a performance from Brian and James,” Mondragon said, calling Smith and Kelley his 1a and 1b in the pitching rotation.

Mondragon said Smith fools people.

“James is a guy who doesn’t look like he has much, but you get up there (to bat), and it’s a different story,” he said. “He goes after you.”

Smith scattered eight hits in Game 1, issued one walk and hit one batter. Mondragon thought he was particularly effective placing pitches on the low, outside corner.

Gene Taylor’s manager Dave Jahnke wouldn’t argue.

“Their pitcher had command of all of his pitches,” Jahnke said between games, “and I think we were a shade passive.”

He made a similar assessment less than two hours later after Kelley shut down Gene Taylor’s on three hits, two walks and one hit batter, and he struck out 13 batters. A half-dozen of his strikeouts came on called third strikes.

“Brian, he’s really developing a changeup,” Mondragon said. “He has a good fastball and curve, and when he’s throwing his changeup well, it makes his fastball better.

“They were out in front quite a bit on him. He was just in command of everything.”

Even in the second inning when Kelley hit a batter and walked the next one, he fanned three batters, each one looking at the third strike.

Jahnke tipped his cap to Kelley, saying, “Their pitcher was good, a tough arm,” but he once again thought Gene Taylor’s was passive. Kelley consistently threw first-pitch strikes, usually a fastball, and Jahnke said his players knew that would be the case. They were instructed to be aggressive, which is why Jahnke called it “frustrating, disappointing” when they weren’t.

And several good starts to innings didn’t yield the results Gene Taylor’s is used to delivering.

Easton Woods walked to lead off the third inning and was bunted over to second, but Serrano’s two-out single through the right side wasn’t deep enough to score Woods, and Brighton escaped without allowing a run.

The next inning, Zack Cox led off with a double, but Kelly struck out the next three batters and stranded Cox on third base.

Gene Taylor’s finally got on the board in the sixth. Serrano ripped a triple to left-center to lead off the frame, and Cox plated the run with a groundout to the first baseman for the second out, but that was all Kelly allowed. He retired the next four batters, three on strikeouts, to close the game.

The losses dropped Gene Taylor’s to 12-10, and the players will get a six-day break from games after playing 22 games in 22 days. They return to action
July 4 in a tournament in Garden City, Kan.

Jahnke said Tuesday he knew his team was tired, but Thursday’s results still were hard to take. And, after the game when some of his players suggested they needed to go right back to work, Jahnke said, “I told them, ‘No, get the rest.’ ... We’ll go back to work on Monday, hammer some things out. ... We need to get back going in the right direction.”


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