Going down to the wire

Tigers' win creates jam in SWL race

Grand Junction starter Neil Ryan was the winning pitcher in the Tigers’ 8-6 win over Fruita Monument on Tuesday at Suplizio Field.

For a moment Tuesday night, the Fruita Monument High School baseball team appeared destined for another wild comeback victory.

Down 8-3 to Grand Junction with one out in the top of the seventh inning, Dylan Row hit a towering, three-run home run over the left-field fence. The next batter, Sam Graf, singled to right field to build momentum.

But Tigers reliever Ty Dixon took a moment to refocus, stepped onto the mound and coaxed back-to-back fly balls to seal an 8-6 Southwestern League win at Suplizio Field.

The senior lefty, with one exception, kept the ball down in the zone and turned in a solid relief outing to complement a quality start from Neil Ryan.

“He’s been doing that,” Tigers coach Donnie Alexander said of Dixon. “He’s been throwing strikes and getting ahead of hitters and having all of his pitches in the zone. He did it again for us tonight, even though he left one up in the zone. When you leave a ball up in the zone like he did to Row, I mean, that’s what you’re supposed to do with that pitch. You hit it 400 feet.

“But for (Dixon) to bounce back like that and to get the next two guys out was fantastic.”

Dixon and Ryan combined to give Grand Junction much-needed consistency on the mound. Offensively, Tristan Lafferty provided a spark. The Tigers entered the game hitting .280 as a team, a number Alexander said was lower than it should be.

But in the third inning, with the bases loaded, Lafferty squeezed a bases-clearing double just inside the third-base line. Lafferty, who will sign to play baseball for Colorado Mesa University today, said the offense regained confidence with the win over Fruita Monument.

“Well, going in I just wanted to be aggressive,” Lafferty said. “But when I saw where it was going, I got excited because it was down the line. It was cool. This game helped us a lot. We’re pretty confident right now, and this helped a lot. In our loss to Central last week, we didn’t play our best game. But this really got us going again, and we have to keep being aggressive for Montrose.”

With the win, Grand Junction can control its own postseason destiny in the logjam that is the SWL standings. 

The Wildcats and Tigers, as well as Montrose and Central, all have two losses. Fruita Monument has dropped consecutive league games, and Grand Junction has won three of its past four SWL games.

Fruita Monument continued its powerful hitting, led by Row. On top of his home run, he had an RBI single, and second run scored on a Grand Junction throwing error. In total, Row was 2 for 4 with four RBI.

For the Tigers, Lafferty was 2 for 3, and every Grand Junction batter reached base safely at least once.

“I told them after the game, we need to go out and win every league game from here on out,” Alexander said. “They need to win every single game. All six of these games is equally important, and we need to treat every game like it’s important, so we control our own destiny. We don’t want it in someone else’s hands at the end of the year.

“We’re really starting to come together as a group, and we’re starting to swing the bats a little bit, as a group, one through nine.

“Our pitching staff is doing exactly what we need them to do, and that’s throw strikes and get outs.”


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