‘Cats deal with distractions in win

Jace Griffiths connects on an RBI triple Friday in the third inning of Fruita Monument’s 11-8 victory over Cortez at Canyon View Park.

Fruita Monument’s baseball team was set up for a letdown.

The Wildcats were coming off a win in their league opener, have a rematch with Durango today and were dealing with the death of a classmate’s father.

A couple of players left the game early to attend funeral services for Stephen Sanford, the father of two Fruita Monument students.

“We played flat today,” junior Drew Bridges said. “We’re 2-0 in league now and that’s real important.”

In addition, the Fruita pitchers struggled to adjust to the umpire’s strike zone.

Despite all that was stacked against them, the Wildcats (8-3, 2-0 SWL) did enough Friday afternoon to defeat Montezuma-Cortez 11-8 in a Southwestern League baseball game at Canyon View Park.

“We had them on the ropes and some factors came into play that took us out of at-bats,” Fruita Monument coach Ray McLennan said. “I thought we handled some tough situations well today. There are some things that happened out here that were out of our control and our kids dealt with it. That’s all you can ask of them.”

McLennan, though, wouldn’t elaborate on what happened that was out of the Wildcats’ control.

“I can’t talk about that,” he said. “We came out with a win and that’s the important thing.”

Fruita starting pitcher Connor Ruckman walked five batters in the second inning, but the Panthers (4-5, 0-1 SWL) could only score two runs. Ruckman allowed four earned runs on three hits and walked seven in four innings.

The Wildcats mounted a two-out, six-run rally in the bottom half to take a 6-2 lead.

Gage Lovern and Ty Burtard hit back-to-back singles, then Lovern scored on an errant pickoff attempt and Burtard scored on a passed ball.

Three batters later, Bridges hit a three-run home run to left field for a 5-2 lead. Dallin Wright followed with a solo shot.

“I was sitting back a little bit and just trying to drive the ball,” Bridges said.

Fruita Monument added three runs in the third inning, with Ryan Blair coming through with a two-run single for a 9-3 lead.

Cortez scored two runs in the fifth and three in the sixth with the aid of four walks in the sixth by reliever JT Clark. The Panthers were down one run when Doran Wood got a strikeout to end the threat.

Jace Griffiths and Wright hit safely in the bottom of the sixth and scored on a Cortez throwing error.

Wood allowed one base runner in the seventh, but got a pop-up to end the game.

“Our guys kept control of their emotions,” McLennan said. “We have a game that’s a huge rivalry game (Saturday). We’ve played Durango once and they showed what kind of character they have. We’re ready to play tomorrow. This was a trap game if I ever saw one and we played like it, too.”


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