All things end

Central softball team's 31-game SWL
win streak stopped in doubleheader split

Grand Junction’s Megan Rubalcaba connects on a two-run home run Tuesday in the first inning of the Tigers’ 5-2 victory over Central at Bergman Field. The loss was Central’s first in Southwestern League play in 31 games. The Warriors bounced back in the second game of the doubleheader, winning 7-3.

Grand Junction’s Megan Rubalcaba is congratulated by her teammates at home plate Tuesday as the Warriors regroup in the field after Rubalcaba’s two-run home run in the first innig of the Tigers’ 5-2 victory at Bergman Field. The loss was Central’s first in Southwestern League play in 31 games. The Warriors bounced back in the second game of the doubleheader, winning 7-3.

One of the longest and most dominant runs in Southwestern League play across any prep sport ended Tuesday night as the Central High School softball team split a doubleheader with Grand Junction at Bergman Field.

The Warriors (11-4, 3-1 SWL) lost the first game 5-2, snapping a 31-game league winning streak that dates back to 2013, before topping the Tigers (8-8, 4-1) in the second game 7-3.

Central’s run through SWL play includes a win during its final league game of the 2013 season, then three consecutive seasons of undefeated runs through the league. The Warriors also won their first two SWL games this season. In the three seasons that made up the majority of that streak, Central was 52-15.

Key to snapping the streak was Grand Junction pitcher Hannah Hutto, who scattered six hits and five strikeouts across seven innings. She walked two batters and only one of Central’s runs was earned.

Grand Junction coach Si Espinoza said beating a team like Central is a confidence booster and praised Hutto.

“We started Hannah Hutto and she’s stepped up and been our No. 1 and our ace,” Espinoza said. “She proved it tonight in the first game. Came out and just hit locations and changed speeds. Proud of all the players for buying in and believing. It’s a good thing.”

The Tigers built their lead early and never trailed after the top of the first inning. Grand Junction surrendered one run to Central, then Megan Rubalcaba gave the Tigers a 2-1 lead with a two-run home run. The Warriors stranded two runners in scoring position in both the second and third innings as Grand Junction stretched its lead to 3-1. Both teams traded runs in the fourth inning, then the Tigers tacked on one more run in the fifth to put the game away.

Both teams finished with six hits, but Grand Junction drew six walks in the first game.

The Tigers out-hit the Warriors in the second game, but it was Central that came up with timely hits. The Warriors once again fell behind 2-1 after the first inning, but the next two innings were scoreless. Sierra Dunham tied the game on a fielder’s choice and Tori Schuman put Central ahead with a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the fourth.

After that, the Warriors piled on five runs in the fifth in a rally that included a double from Dunham. Central had only five hits in the game, but capitalized on wild pitching and defensive errors from Grand Junction.

“We just got the timely hits,” Central coach Scott Else said. “It felt like we stranded 14 runners in the first game, so it was good to see us get hits in important moments.”

Central’s clutch hitting backed Kelty Key, who had her seventh complete game of the season. She struck out only one batter, but issued no walks and limited the damage on Grand Junction’s 10 hits.

“That’s what Kelty does,” Else said. “She’ll get you groundballs and fly balls and keep everything manageable.”

Espinoza said things got away from the Tigers in the second game.

“We just didn’t get the timely hit and that was the big thing there,” Espinoza said. “We made a few defensive errors that kinda hurt us, but shoot, maybe we just kinda ran out of gas there a little bit. Still proud of how we played these two games and being able to compete with Central is a big deal.”


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