GJ beats Central, stays in playoff race
Tigers win, stay in race for playoffs
Wild, dramatic, controversial and a little strange, this game had it all.
In a baseball game that had a season’s worth of plays in nine wild innings, Grand Junction High School outlasted Central 7-3 at Suplizio Field on Tuesday to keep its postseason hopes alive.
The Tigers pushed across five runs in the top of the ninth to finally put the game away, but for eight innings the game was a pitcher’s duel with a lots of strategy sprinkled in.
Both pitchers were outstanding, with Neil Ryan getting the win for the Tigers, going eight innings and striking out 10. Michael Price was truly a Warrior, going 8 2/3 innings with a career-high 15 strikeouts.
It was the longest outing of Ryan’s career.
“It’s awesome,” Ryan said about getting the win. “I just kept going out and throwing strikes. Coach wanted to pull me out after the seventh and I told him no way, I’m going back out.”
Grand Junction took a 1-0 lead in the fifth when Ty Dixon scored an unearned run.
Then things got interesting in the bottom of the sixth.
Price and Trey Garcia singled and Cole Rupe sacrificed them over. Alex Schaneman turned on a pitch, ripping it deep and just over the right-field fence. With Central players pouring out of the dugout in celebration, the home-plate umpire called a foul ball, igniting a firestorm of disagreement by the Warriors.
But Schaneman returned to the batter’s box and ripped an RBI single to tie the score at 1-1. After losing the home run, the Warriors still had a chance to take the lead, but Garcia was caught in a rundown between third and home, and Ryan got the third out on a strikeout.
Grand Junction (13-6, 6-4 Southwestern League) took a 2-1 lead in the top of the seventh when Dixon scored on a single by Kaleb Johnson.
Central (13-5, 5-4 SWL) responded with a run in the bottom of the inning when Andrew Martinez hit a lead-off double and scored on a single by Brandon Martinez.
Things got interesting again in the top of the eighth.
Anthony Johnson doubled for the Tigers and Tyler Mantlo took over as the courtesy runner. In a game that had five sacrifice bunts, a missed sacrifice bunt and a sacrifice bunt that turned into a hit, both teams were playing small ball. This time, Owen Taylor put down a perfect sacrifice to move Mantlo to third.
Then Grand Junction coach Donnie Alexander called for a suicide squeeze, but Tyler Heinsma got a low breaking ball from Price and failed to make contact. With Mantlo breaking from third, he didn’t have a chance and Andrew Martinez applied the tag. The Central catcher had to get his wrist and thumb taped after the hard slide by Mantlo.
Grand Junction finally broke the game open in the top of the ninth when Max Fransen hit a leadoff single and scored on Dillon Fante’s single. Anthony Johnson followed with another RBI single and Taylor blasted a two-run triple to deep center.
“It was a real exciting game,” Fante said. “We came out and put up 0’s and they threw 0’s, and we finally got our stuff going later in the game.”
Price and Ryan were in command throughout but each pitcher had to battle out of jams in almost every inning.
Ryan got out of trouble in the first by getting Price to ground into a double play with two runners on.
Grand Junction had a runner on third base in three of the first four innings but Price got out of trouble every time.
Both teams had runners on base in every inning except the sixth when Price struck out the side.