Canup cleans up
Fruita pitcher allows only one hit in season opener
Three up, three down.
That’s how starting pitcher Devon Canup’s first five innings went as the Fruita Monument senior took a perfect game into the sixth inning of the Wildcats’ season opener Thursday during Day 1 of the Bill Fanning Memorial Classic tournament.
His bid for perfection ended with the first Centaurus batter in the sixth, however, as Lucas DiSabato blooped a ball over the third baseman to the edge of the left-field grass for a single. Canup then retired the next two batters, but walked the subsequent two to load the bases.
Fruita coach Ray McLennan visited the mound but left Canup in, and he induced a fly ball to center field to end the threat.
That kept the shutout intact, and senior Brett Nelson pitched a perfect seventh inning as the Wildcats triumphed 7-0.
Canup knew he was toying with a no-hitter, pointing out, “It’s on the scoreboard,” but, “I try not to pay attention.”
Settling for six innings of one-hit ball with two walks and five strikeouts was OK as Canup considered his outing a good first start for a team that wants to defend its Southwestern League championship despite losing seven of last year’s starters to graduation.
Some of the new, full-time starters are seniors, and others are new to the varsity, which McLennan thought was a factor early in the game when the Wildcats got runners into scoring position but didn’t plate any of them in the first two innings.
“It took us a while to get going. I kind of thought that would be the case,” McLennan said, adding no matter how good a player was on the junior varsity, there’s an adjustment to make on varsity.
Waiting for the offense to get going, which it finally did with five runs in the third inning on four hits and four walks, was no problem with Canup on the mound.
“He threw strikes. He attacked the zone,” McLennan said. “He did a great job of taking care of business out there and controlling the game.”
Fruita catcher Cuba Bess said Canup didn’t have control of his curveball early, so he relied on his fastball through three innings.
“Later in the game he found command of his curveball, and he did a good job with his pitch sequence — fastball, curveball and change-up — and he did a good job of mixing his pitches,” Bess said.
Canup’s self-assessment mirrored what Bess said, and Canup said the No. 1 thing he did on the mound was trust his defense to make plays behind him.
“Today I relied on my defense. I pitched to (contact),” he said. “The strikeouts just came. I wasn’t going for strikeouts. ... I just kind of went with situations, played the game.”
Another sight welcomed by Fruita fans Thursday was the appearance of senior Sam Schroeder in the lineup. Last year’s pitching ace started in center field and finished 1 for 3, which is significant because he’s a mere six months removed from tearing an anterior cruciate ligament during the first half of the Wildcats’ football game against Grand Junction on Sept. 11.
When Schroeder singled in the third inning, McLennan put in a pinch runner, and Schroeder re-entered the game in the top of the fourth.
After Schroeder walked in the sixth, he remained in the game and scored from first base on a double by Tyler Tuell. It was clear Schroeder is OK to sprint around the bases, something he was accustomed to doing last year when he batted .464 with 15 extra-base hits.
“He’s a tough kid. He worked hard to get back to this spot,” McLennan said.
Schroeder’s next test will come today as Fruita’s starting pitcher. If Schroeder can regain last year’s pitching dominance — he was 7-1 with a 1.95 ERA and 67 strikeouts and 14 walks in 46 2/3 innings — the Wildcats will have a formidable 1-2 punch on the mound with him and Canup.
And a healthy Schroeder batting cleanup behind Bess will give Fruita a fearsome run-producing duo in the heart of the Wildcats’ order as Bess comes off a junior campaign in which he hit .562 with 22 extra-base hits and 40 RBI.
Bess played primarily at first base last year, but he will spend most of his time at catcher this year as that’s where he is expected to play in the fall for NCAA Division I Grand Canyon University.
That works for McLennan, who said Bess “has such a strong arm, and you want to put your better athletes up the middle (on defense).”