Burns’ big bat
GJ senior hits first two HRs of career in Tigers' win
Kylie Burns had gone four years without hitting a home run for the Grand Junction High School softball team.
The Tigers’ senior leadoff hitter has countless swings and a batting average above .400, but she never put everything together to hit the ball over the fence.
Not only did Burns hit a home run on the first pitch in the bottom of the first inning Thursday, she added a no-doubt solo home run over the center-field fence in the bottom of the fifth inning during Grand Junction’s 8-3 Southwestern League win over Central at Bergman Field.
The win kept the Tigers (12-2, 7-2 SWL) in the hunt for the league title and likely knocked Central (10-7, 6-3) from the chase.
“Kylie’s been here four years, and those are her first home runs,” Grand Junction coach Adam Diaz said. “I just told her after the game, ‘Hey, maybe wait until we have some runners on the bases next time you decide to hit the ball like that.’ Four years she’s been here and they’re both leadoff home runs.
“But I’m so happy for her. She’s been here four years, and she’s just been dying to hit one. I tell you, it’s the good mechanics. She’s been working really hard on her mechanics, and the power came for her tonight.”
Burns said she wasn’t sure about her first home run, but the second shot left no doubt.
“I honestly thought the first one hooked foul,” Burns said. “It was good contact, and I got it right where I like it, but I didn’t think it went out. I just saw my coach get excited and realized that it was my first home run, and yeah, I just got excited. It’s a lot of emotions and, you know, it was my first. I didn’t really know how to feel.
“I could feel the second home run. It was pretty obvious that it was out, and that one felt good.”
Four of the Tigers’ eight hits were for extra bases, including Burns’ home run and two doubles during the first inning. The Tigers scored three runs in the first before falling into a lull until Burns’ second home run. Grand Junction got back on track with four runs in the bottom of the sixth.
Diaz said the Tigers swung at a lot of first pitches against the Warriors, and that is something he has emphasized in practice.
“I told them that they’ve been hitting the ball well in practice, but they need to carry that into games,” Diaz said. “The only thing different about games is the jersey we have on, and we need to come ready with that swagger and confidence, just knowing we can crush the ball.”
Burns finished 2 for 4 and Morgan Zanski and Elisha Jahnke had multi-hit games as well.
Jahnke threw a complete game for the win and had to pitch out of a bases-loaded jam in the top of the sixth inning. After surrendering two runs, Jahnke forced a fielder’s choice at home plate with the bases loaded and one out. Then, a fly out to center field ended the inning to preserve a 4-3 Tigers lead.
Central coach Scott Else opted to bring in Taryn Smith to pitch, rather than ace Amanda Etcheverry like he did in the Warriors’ 8-2 loss to Grand Junction a week earlier. Smith, usually a center fielder, struck out three over six innings and kept Central within striking distance for most of the game.
“We haven’t thrown Taryn much this year because she’s such a strong center fielder, but she throws really hard,” Else said. “Last time we threw Amanda, and she’s a little more off-speed, and Taryn gave us a different look. We wanted to throw something completely different at them, and besides the three really big hits to start the game, Taryn really settled in and threw well for us.”
Central outhit Grand Junction with 10 hits, but the Warriors left numerous runners in scoring position — including four during the first two innings.
Else said his team will need to convert on those opportunities to be successful moving forward.
“We’ve talked about momentum,” Else said. “We came out before the bottom of the sixth inning today, and we had the momentum, but a few mental mistakes and a couple physical mistakes cost us. We’re really young, with only one senior, but we need to learn to push runners across. We’ve been hitting really well the last few games, but for whatever reason can’t score them when we need to.”