Disregard the order; don’t disrespect GJ’s DeRush

Pitchers who walk No. 9 hitters in high school baseball generally deserve scorn. For crying out loud, it’s the No. 9 hitter. Throw him three strikes and sit him down.

It’s not like Grand Junction High School’s Tristan Lafferty or Owen Taylor are residing there, where, yeah, you’re an idiot if you throw them a fastball in the strike zone.

But at Grand Junction, you’re also an idiot if you disrespect Derek DeRush. The No. 9 hitter. The guy who in two games is 6 for 6 with two walks, four RBI and four runs scored.

When Tigers coach Donnie Alexander says his team can hit one through nine in the order, he means it.

“It’s almost like I have a second leadoff there,” Alexander said, adding DeRush is a disciplined hitter, and, “If they keep feeding him fastballs, he’ll keep hitting it.”

DeRush’s start isn’t likely to earn him a higher spot in the batting order, though, as Alexander said, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

DeRush said his coach says that a lot, and he’s fine with it.

“What we’re doing right now is working, so don’t change anything,” DeRush said. “Honestly, for our team, I don’t think it matters for any of us where we hit because we all have the same approach. I could hit anywhere in the lineup and take the same approach at the plate.”

Against Fruita Monument on March 12, DeRush lined three balls through the left side of the infield for singles, and he drew a full-count walk.

Against Poudre on Tuesday, he started with a solid single through the left side, drew a walk, then went deep with about as long a single as possible at Suplizio Field. With the bases loaded DeRush lofted a 1-2 pitch high to left-center, but all of the runners had to hold until the ball landed at the base of the wall. What ordinarily would have been a stand-up double was merely a two-run single.

“I was happy he didn’t catch the ball for an out,” DeRush said of the center fielder. “I was a little disappointed it was only a single, but hey, it worked. I got on base, and we kept it going. I still came around and scored.”

That was DeRush’s first hit in a 14-run, 18-at-bat fourth inning for Grand Junction. His next time up in the frame, there was no suspense, and he got his double, driving a shot over the left fielder’s head to plate two more runs.

So, life has been good during a 3-0 start for Junction, where DeRush said, “We’re pounding the ball and scoring runs and winning.”

And the No. 9 hitter is not to be trifled with. Pitchers, pay no attention to grumbling fans or sports writers if you walk him.

Too close for comfort

Tuesday’s explosion that destroyed two homes on Seventh Street was heard and felt by the Grand Junction baseball team, which was warming up, getting ready to take batting practice on a field at the school before driving over to Suplizio Field for the 3 p.m. game.

Alexander moved his midsection to demonstrate how his body moved when the explosion occurred.

“We were 200 to 300 yards away from it,” he said.

Seeking a second season

Fruita Monument will hire a softball coach in the next few weeks, according to the high school’s athletic director, Denny Squibb.

Jack Thomas served as the coach last fall when the Wildcats had to scramble to find a coach after Jamie Dunn in mid-July took an assistant coaching job at Colorado Christian University. High school games began in late August.

The Wildcats didn’t have time to do a normal search for her replacement. Thomas received notification he landed the Fruita Monument job while he was in California in late July, early August, coaching the Grand Valley Crush, an 18-under team, in the USSSA World Series. Thomas said it helped that “I knew 95 percent of the girls on the varsity anyway.”

Thomas said he is among the applicants this spring. He guided the Wildcats to a 15-7 record and a berth in the state playoffs. Fruita Monument tied Grand Junction for first place in the Southwestern League at 9-1.

“It was an enjoyable year,” said Thomas, who also was an assistant coach for the Fruita Monument baseball team from 2001 to 2006.

Playing with the all-stars

Olathe senior Haley Turley has been chosen to the Class 3A team for the Colorado Coaches of Girls Sports All-State Basketball Games at Arvada West High School on Sunday.

Turley was the player of the year in the 3A Western Slope League after leading the league in scoring (15.7 points per game) and steals (86). Her 79 percent shooting at the free-throw line (143 of 182) was first in the state among Class 3A teams and third overall among all classes.

She also sports a 4.396 grade-point average and will graduate high school with 18 college credits.


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