Big day on the diamond
Price fans 12 to lead Warriors
If you didn’t see Michael Price stretching in the dugout between innings Tuesday night, or didn’t catch him momentarily wince in pain while standing on the mound, you’d think nothing was wrong.
But while warming up before the second inning, Price stepped awkwardly and injured his groin.
Powering through the discomfort, the senior right-hander pitched a complete game against Fruita Monument, striking out 12 batters to lead the Warriors to a 5-2 win in Southwestern League baseball at Suplizio Field.
“Yeah, I tweaked my groin a little bit after I came down hard on my heel,” Price said. “I stretched it out, tried to keep it loose and just pitched through it.”
Central coach Chuck Yost noticed Price laboring on the mound, but as his pitch count climbed, Yost said he had faith in his only starting senior.
“I didn’t know if he was tight or if he pulled a muscle or really what it was,” Yost said. “But in the second inning I saw him wince a little bit and saw him stretching out there, just trying to get loose.
“We were asking him if he was good to go, and he kept saying, ‘Coach, I’m good. I’m good.’ If Michael Price tells me he’s good, he’s going to stay out there.”
Of Price’s season-high 12 strikeouts, seven batters struck out looking.
In four of his five starts this season, Price has notched at least eight strikeouts. The lone exception was a rough outing against Fruita Monument earlier this season, where the Wildcats tagged Price for three runs on eight hits over five innings of work.
With a budding rivalry between the two clubs — at different points during the game, the Warriors (12-3, 4-2 SWL) and Wildcats (10-8, 6-3 SWL) talked trash back and forth — and his previous rough outing, Price was out for redemption.
“Playing Fruita is just fun,” Price said of the rivalry. “It’s a big win for us. We felt like we made some mistakes last game and like we had something to prove. We played well today, but right now, Durango on Friday is the biggest game of our year.”
Price also keyed Central’s first offensive rally in the top of the fifth inning. Brandon Martinez reached base on a walk, and a wild throw allowed Jeremy Champlin to reach base safely on a bunt. Tanner Huskey moved the runners over with a sacrifice bunt, then Price blasted a double that bounced high off the center-field fence. Price scored on an RBI single from Cole Rupe.
Fruita answered with two runs in the bottom half of the fifth, but Central scratched out a run in the top of the sixth.
The Warriors’ Alex Schaneman started the sixth inning with a walk and advanced to second base on a groundout. Another groundout advanced Schaneman to third, and an errant throw on a back-pick attempt allowed him to score.
Fruita Monument was without head coach Ray McLennan, who was serving a one-game suspension for his ejection during the Wildcats’ 8-6 loss to Grand Junction last week.
Senior right-hander Conner Cronkhite, who got the start on the mound for the Wildcats’ senior night, was hit by the ball on his right foot on a comebacker during the second inning and had to leave the game.
Immediately after being hit, Cronkhite fell on the grass a couple of feet from the mound. After staying down for three minutes, Cronkhite was helped off the field with minimal weight on the foot. He remained in the dugout during the game with ice on his foot.