6-run seventh carries Central to 3rd straight SWL softball crown

For six innings Thursday night, the Fruita Monument High School softball team proved it could play with the Southwestern League’s top team.

In the seventh inning, Central showed why it’s the best softball team in the SWL three years running.

Sierra Batchelor finished 4 for 5 and had two hits during a six-run seventh inning for the Warriors, who wrapped up their third consecutive league crown with an 11-3 victory over the Wildcats at Bergman Field.

“It’s pretty important. Actually, it’s pretty cool just shocking people,” said Batchelor, a senior whose double in the Warriors’ two-run third gave Central its first lead. “I know a lot of people were saying things like ‘This year Central’s not going to be as good because they lost six seniors (to graduation)’ before my junior year. This year we lost one senior to graduation, and we just keep reloading.

“We have so many people who are ready to help in any way.”

Haley Coghill finished 2 for 3 with two runs scored and Trinity Santiago added a 2-for-4 performance for the Warriors (14-2-1, 6-0 SWL), who would claim the league championship even with a pair of losses at Durango (3-11, 0-5) today. Thursday’s game however, was a far cry from the Warriors’ previous league games, where they’d outscored their opponents 60-2.

Fruita (11-8, 6-2) eclipsed that run total and, for five innings, got a lights-out performance in the pitcher’s circle from Taylor Laing to help keep the Wildcats in the game.

“That was like being in a playoff atmosphere,” Central coach Scott Else said. “(Laing is) a good pitcher, too. She throws hard, she moves the ball around and she overpowered us for the first couple of innings. We finally settled in and got our timing against her, but it’s been a while since we’ve seen pitching of that caliber in league play.”

Laing allowed nine earned runs and five walks with nine strikeouts — with seven of the strikeouts coming in the first three innings. The Warriors took the lead for good when Laing bobbled a swinging bunt from Coghill with two outs in the sixth, which allowed Sydney Corra and Jaeda Garcia to score and give Central a 5-3 lead. In the seventh, Batchelor led off with a single and was the first of 11 Central batters to come to the plate.

“I know everyone was battling hard for our seniors,” said Brandi Haller, who went 4 for 4 with a run scored to pace a nine-hit attack in Fruita’s final regular-season game. “We played with a lot of grit, and we showed we could play with some of the best.”

Fruita senior Hannah Thornberg went 2 for 3, and her solo home run off Melissa Gellermann to lead off the fifth tied the score at 3-3. That came after Batchelor drove in Santiago, who led off the inning with a triple.

Grand Junction 22, Montrose 3: Hannah Hutto had four hits and six RBI to pace a 19-hit performance for the Tigers (10-9, 4-4 SWL). Megan Rubalcaba also had four hits and Alexia Thompson added three hits for Grand Junction. The Indians (7-11, 1-5) were limited to three hits.


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