Late home run from Grant helps Warriors top 'Cats
The Central High School softball team had to wait until later in Tuesday night’s game to find its power surge.
After Fruita Monument launched three home runs in the first four innings, a two-run home run from Central’s Shaelyn Grant gave the Warriors a lead that they wouldn’t surrender during an 11-7 victory at Bergman Field.
The Wildcats (4-9, 1-1 Southwestern League) scored all seven of their runs in the first four innings, riding home runs from Brandi Haller, Lexie Didonato and Katie Sparks to a 7-4 lead over the Warriors (9-3, 1-0) after the top of the fourth.
Central generated its own offense during that span — a two-run home run from Hailey Schaneman and consecutive bases-loaded walks — but was plagued by mistakes in the field. Many of the miscues didn’t translate into errors, as there was only one on the scoreboard, but Warriors coach Scott Else said things need to be cleaned up as Central works deeper into league play.
“We started pretty slow and Fruita has some experience and pretty good hitters,” Else said. “They definitely took advantage of that. I’m really happy with the way the girls finished, but we made way too many mistakes out there. It didn’t look like a Central team tonight.”
Still, a string of hits in the bottom of the fourth inning allowed the Warriors to tie the game, then Grant’s shot started a four-run rally to close out the game. The sophomore said she knew Fruita’s pitcher, Haller, was trying to pitch over the inside half of the plate. After making some minor adjustments, Grant sent the ball arcing high over the left-field fence.
“Well, when I had first seen her pitch, I knew she was throwing me inside,” Grant said. “So I was trying to step off a little bit, waited her to throw the right pitch and then I just thumped it.”
Grant added that the home run kicking off a late surge isn’t surprising.
“That’s usually how we work,” she said. “Once somebody has a great hit, it gets things rolling for us. We’re all right. We’re happy with the win but we’re definitely gonna be working harder to come back and not make some of these mistakes next time.”
Despite the mistakes, it was a heads-up defensive play that allowed Central to hang onto a two-run lead in the sixth. Pitcher Kelty Key caught a hard line drive and doubled off a Fruita runner at first base. The play ended the inning and the Warriors loaded the bases in the bottom of the frame, with two runs scoring on a wild pitches.
Key allowed only five hits in a complete game, walking five with three strikeouts. After the early home runs, Key settled in, forcing mostly ground balls and soft flyouts from the Wildcats. Else said Key isn’t going to dominate any batter with her velocity, but her control, when it’s there, keeps Central competitive.
“Kelty’s not going to blow it by anybody,” Else said. “Kelty moves the ball and hits her spots really well. She was struggling with that a little bit tonight, first time she’s ever played at Mesa under the lights, so we’re going to give her a little bit of a pass on that. But Kelty is definitely more ground balls, fly balls like you saw in the later innings. She usually hits her spots really well and I thought in the later innings she really started to do that.
“She fields her position well and that’s something we expect from most of our pitchers and the double play she got there was something that I thought deflated (Fruita) a little bit. Top of their order and their best hitter coming up next. Could’ve had their best girl up with two on, but instead Kelty ended the inning.”
Haller also went the distance for Fruita, scattering 13 hits with six walks and three strikeouts. The Warriors’ victory continues a seven-game winning streak against the Wildcats dating back to 2013.