Gene Taylor’s loses close game in opening round of Legion baseball regionals

Gene Taylor’s American Legion baseball team knows it belongs in the Western Region tournament.

Just like in the state tournament, though, the Grand Junction club will have to prove it the tough way after Thursday’s 6-5 loss to Lakewood, Calif., in the opening round.

“Frustrating,” Taylor’s coach David Jahnke said. “The scary thing is, we’re one of the better teams here. We’re probably one of the top three or four teams here, even after playing the team that’s one of the front-runners.”

Taylor’s led early, but Lakewood responded time after time.

“We had an opportunity to make it real ugly,” Jahnke said. “We just could not get that hit.”

Zach Lebsock singled home two runs in the third inning for a 2-1 lead, but Lakewood tied it in the bottom of the inning.

Marcus Wirth singled with one out and scored in the top of the fourth for Taylor’s, which scored three runs on four hits in the inning.

Cole Cummins followed with a base hit and Casey Burns’ single scored Wirth. Drew Bridges followed with an RBI double, sending Burns to third.

Burns scored on Evan McDermott’s sacrifice fly to center, with Bridges taking third. He was stranded when Owen Taylor was thrown out at first on a third strike that got past the catcher.

Just like the third inning, Lakewood answered in the fourth with a pair of runs to cut it to 5-4.

Stephen Baldwin walked the leadoff man and hit another batter after getting two outs. A double steal put both runners in scoring position, and a pair of infield singles scored runs. Five of the six men who scored for Lakewood reached on a walk or were hit by a pitch.

“The umpire had a tight zone, but Steve stayed with it. I’m proud of how he stayed with it, he never got frustrated,” Jahnke said. “He pitched well enough to win, even though he walked a few too many. We should have won that ballgame.”

Lakewood tied it in the fifth on a throwing error and took the lead in the seventh.

From the fifth inning on, Taylor’s struggled to get men on base, and when they did, couldn’t get them in.

Tyler Gastineau was hit by a pitch with one out in the fifth, but Brett Labonte grounded into a double play. Taylor’s was retired in order in the sixth, eighth and ninth innings.

Baldwin threw seven innings for Gene Taylor’s, allowing five earned runs on eight hits. He struck out five, walked six and hit three.

Each team had eight hits, but Fairfield pitchers walked four and struck out 12.

Cummins went 2 for 5 and scored twice in the leadoff spot for Taylor’s and Lebsock drove in two runs.

Gene Taylor’s, which plays Albuquerque, N.M., at 10 this morning in an elimination game, struggled hitting at sea level after hitting at altitude their entire lives.

“Cole and Drew hit balls that if we were playing at that park in Boulder would have cleared the whole park,” said Jahnke, who grew up in Washington. “It’s different and we know it’s different.

“There are minor adjustments we need to remember to make and get back to hitting line drives.”

And they have to forget Thursday’s game.

“It’s just another game we have to flush and figure out a way to move on,” Jahnke said. “Most of our guys are down. They know what they had in front of them.”


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