Durango’s nine-run first inning the catalyst in rout of ’Cats

Racing at top speed toward the center field fence, JJ Russo of Fruita Monument High School still can’t quite catch John Ugai’s hit during the top of the first inning of Friday’s game against Durango at Canyon View Park. Ugai got a triple out of the hit.

The first batter can say a lot about how a baseball game will turn out.

Durango’s leadoff hitter, Tyler McKnight, laced a single to center field to open Friday’s
Southwestern League game against Fruita Monument at Canyon View Park.

McKnight’s single was followed by the next four Durango batters reaching base, including a two-run triple by Aaron Coats. By the time Fruita got its first out, the Demons had a 5-0 lead.

Durango pushed the lead to 9-0 by the end of the inning on the way to handing the Wildcats (10-6, 5-3 SWL) their worst loss of the season, 15-3 in five innings.

“Mentally we weren’t there,” Fruita’s Alex Mende said. “We shouldn’t have overlooked them, but it felt like we did. The team wasn’t ready to go today.”

“They jumped on us right away, and that was the ballgame,” Fruita Monument coach Ray McLennan said. “We dug ourselves a big hole, and it was a case where we had to find a way to get back into it.”

Fruita starting pitcher Cody Rahmann didn’t get out of the first inning, and was replaced by Wayne Landini after allowing John Ugai’s RBI triple.

When the Wildcats finally got to hit, they had their work cut out for them against Durango’s ace, Coats, who recorded six strikeouts.

“Their pitcher did a good job, and we couldn’t knock him out,” McLennan said. “It was their day.”

Fruita scored two runs in the bottom of the second when Rex Clemons hit a two-run home run over the 416-foot sign in left-center field. The Wildcats had a chance to continue to cut into the 9-2 lead, but stranded runners at first and third.

After the rough first inning, the Wildcats continued to pitch by committee as Landini was replaced by Shai Fullmer in the second inning. Ryan Mixon pitched the third and fourth innings.

The Demons put the game out of reach against Mixon, who allowed five runs, including a solo home run by Ben Southworth. The Demons’ right fielder went 2 for 2 with four RBI.

Mende and Cody Bell finished out the game for the Wildcats on the mound.

“We used a lot of pitchers,” McLennan said. “Any time your starter gets knocked out in the first inning, you are scrambling to find something. I thought the guys did a good job of piecing some things together.”

Offensively, Clemons led the way, going 2 for 2 with a home run and a double. McKnight went 4 for 5 for the Demons.

The loss puts Fruita Monument on the outside looking in on the playoffs. The Wildcats need to win their final two games and have Durango lose both its remaining games to get one of two playoff spots. Fruita would also make it if it wins out and Grand Junction loses its final two games. Fruita plays Montezuma-Cortez at 10 this morning at Suplizio Field.

“We don’t hold many tiebreakers, and it might look a little bleak, but any time you are mathematically still in it, you have a chance,” McLennan said. “(Today’s) game will be an important test of character.”


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