Fruita’s pitching troubles help Tigers win ugly game
The record will show that the Grand Junction High School baseball team defeated Fruita Monument 17-11 on Tuesday at Suplizio Field.
What won’t be seen is the more than three-hour game had 21 combined walks by eight different pitchers.
“We thought we’d see a pretty good baseball game,” Grand Junction coach Kyle Rush said. “Anyone can tell you that it wasn’t a good game, but we happened to get the win and we’ll take it.”
The Tigers (10-2, 5-1 Southwestern League) took advantage of 17 walks by Fruita Monument pitchers —including eight in one inning — but Grand Junction had pitching troubles of its own early.
Starter Steve Baldwin allowed an RBI double to Dallin Wright in the first inning to put Fruita Monument in front 1-0.
Grand Junction tied the game in the bottom of the first, but couldn’t slow Fruita Monument’s offense.
The Wildcats (9-5, 3-2 SWL) scored five runs in the second, fueled by RBI doubles from Ryan Blair and Levi Kramer to take a 6-1 lead. Baldwin left the game without recording an out in the second inning.
“We wanted to be aggressive and I thought we had a good approach,” Fruita Monument coach Ray McLennan said. “We had 14 hits (in the game) so we matched up well.”
Grand Junction scored a run in the bottom of the second inning, and Tigers reliever Brandon Thompson pitched a scoreless third.
The Tigers then went on the offensive, scoring five runs in their half of the third. The big blow was Charlie Willett’s three-run triple, which gave Grand Junction a 7-6 lead.
“It wasn’t the best at-bat, but I got it to a full count and it seems like when I have two strikes, I zone in more,” Willett said. “(Fruita Monument starting pitcher Shai Fullmer) gave me a fastball on the inner half and I turned on it.
“It felt really good.”
Willett scored on a passed ball to put the Tigers up 8-6.
“It was Charlie Willett doing what he does,” Rush said. “He’s a great senior leader for us and got the big hit when we needed it.”
Fruita Monument answered with a two-run fourth inning to tie the game at 8-8, and a three-run fifth inning led by a Wright two-run double.
The Wildcats held an 11-8 lead heading into the bottom of the fifth.
In the fifth, Drew Bridges replaced Connor Ruckman on the mound and walked eight Tigers batters in an eight-run inning where Grand Junction had only one hit.
“Once we got Drew in there with a three-run lead we thought we had a chance to win,” McLennan said. “For him to not throw strikes was surprising, but our pitching has been strong all year and I know the kids will regroup.”
After Fruita’s collapse in the fifth inning, Grand Junction’s Chandon Rose threw two shutout innings to close out the game.
“The difference was pitching,” Rush said. “The guys I thought would get it done didn’t and (Fruita) probably feels the same on their side. The next time will be a battle.”