Fruita Monument tops Grand Junction as dusk falls at Kronkright Complex
There was so much on the line, the Fruita Monument and Grand Junction high school softball teams nearly needed another day to decide a winner.
The fifth-ranked Tigers forced extra innings Tuesday evening before No. 8 Fruita Monument scored three runs in the top of the ninth inning and held on for a 6-4 Southwestern League victory at Kronkright Complex.
The facility doesn’t have lights, and game officials were discussing suspending the game had it been tied after the ninth inning.
The game was tied 3-3 after seven innings and remained tied until the ninth, when Makenzi DeCrow came through with a two-run, bases-loaded double. Another run scored on a fielder’s choice for a 6-3 lead.
“I was looking for a base hit and came through for a big hit for my team,” DeCrow said. “I guess that’s all that really matters.”
Fruita Monument (11-3, 4-1 SWL) moved into sole position of first place in the league with the victory. The Wildcats are also in the driver’s seat for the one guaranteed spot for regionals. Two at-large teams from the eight conferences will be selected to complete the 32-team regional field. Last year, Fruita Monument and Central received regional bids, hosted and qualified for state.
“It’s really important for us,” Fruita coach Jamie Dunn said. “It would’ve been nice to keep that other run off the board in case it comes down to head-to-head competition like it did last year. It’s nice to have this game be for first place.
“This is really the only preparation we have for the regionals and state. I hope for our league, two teams go.”
If Fruita Monument doesn’t falter down the stretch, Grand Junction (11-3, 3-2 SWL) will have to rely on a committee to pick the Tigers as one of the two at-large teams for regionals. The Tigers’ remaining five games are against Class 4A opponents in the SWL, Montrose, Durango and Montezuma-Cortez.
“We’ve got to take care of business and end up 16-3,” Grand Junction coach Adam Diaz said. “Hopefully the softball gods shine on us and we make regionals.”
Fruita Monument built an early 2-0 lead behind a Mariah O’Dell solo home run in the first and a Kendra Williams RBI double in the second.
Grand Junction responded when Madison Marsh hit a two-run home run in the second inning.
It remained 2-2 until Hannah Mahnke led off the Fruita fifth with a single and scored on DeCrow’s sacrifice fly.
Fruita pitcher Mallory Paulson, who came on in relief in the fourth, had the Tigers tamed until the seventh when Cierra Cosslett reached on a fielder’s choice and scored on Arrianna Diaz’s sacrifice fly, sending the game into extra innings.
“That was a fun game,” Adam Diaz said. “I am proud of them. The mettle, the heart, you can’t teach that. These girls just fought, fought, fought.”
In the ninth, O’Dell reached on a walk, then Mahnke doubled, putting runners on second and third. Grand Junction intentionally walked Paulson to load the bases, but one out later, DeCrow came through.
“We made some mental mistakes,” Dunn said. “We’ve got to clean that up or we’re not going to win those close games. The last three games we kind of ran over people. For us to play a close game as long as we did, we are better off defensively than we were two weeks ago.”
Paulson pitched six innings in relief and got the victory. She allowed one earned run on three hits, two walks and struck out five. Sneddon gave up two runs on six hits and had three strikeouts in three innings.
“Mallory has taken on the relief pitcher position,” Dunn said. “It seems to work better for her. We haven’t lost since we changed it up. I start Jenni and if she gives up five runs in the first inning, I put Mal out there in the second. Jenni’s performance was just as important as Mal’s. For Jenni to go (three) innings is huge.”
Cosslett allowed six runs on 10 hits, nine walks and struck out six in the complete-game performance.