HELPERS: Bottom of order thriving for Wildcats

The Fruita Monument High School softball team has begun a trend that is very promising.

In the past two games against Grand Junction and Montezuma-Cortez, the Wildcats (14-1, 6-0 Southwestern League) are getting most of their hits and runs from the bottom third of their lineup.

Friday in the first game of a doubleheader against Cortez, Fruita’s 6-9 hitters went 8 for 8 and scored eight runs in the Wildcats’ 11-0 victory at Kronkright Park.

“That’s huge, because people assume they get through the top four and they are OK,” Fruita Monument coach Jamie Dunn said. “For us, the top four carried us at the beginning of the year, and now we have 6-9 coming through, so hopefully they’re going to come together.”

The bottom third’s performance against Cortez was preluded by batting .500 and scoring five of their seven runs Tuesday night against Grand Junction. The Wildcats’ No. 6 hitter, Jordan Paulson, had a home run against the Tigers, and followed that by going 3 for 3 against the Panthers.

“I came out relaxed, and have been seeing the ball really well,” Paulson said. “I was in a slump and I think that (home run) got me out of it.”

Following Paulson at the plate has been freshman Hannah Mahnke. The Wildcats’ designated player scored three runs against the Panthers, going 2 for 2 with two RBI. Mahnke is the only freshman in uniform on the Wildcats’ varsity, and earned that spot with her big bat.

“It took me a little bit to figure out where to put Hannah, but I have to have her bat in the lineup,” Dunn said. “She has a strong technique with her swing, and as long as she swings at good pitches she’s going to hit it.”

The Wildcats’ final two batters, Shanyn Thomas and Shelby Kubick, both had good days against Cortez, combining for three RBI.

“It’s a coach’s dream to be able to hit well 1-9,” Dunn said. “I hope we can come together as a lineup into the postseason, then see what happens.”

Fruita’s bats helped end the first game after five innings, propelled by four-run innings in the second and fourth. Kendra Williams got the Wildcats going in the first inning by walking and scoring on a passed ball.

“We scored every inning, and that’s all you can ask for,” Dunn said. “Sometimes these games are tougher and you can get relaxed, but I’m proud of the way they came out and took care of business.”

Erika Chirdon put in her usual work on the mound by pitching all five innings and allowing only one hit. Chirdon struck out eight of the 16 batters she faced.

In the second game of the doubleheader, Fruita defeated Cortez 12-2. The Wildcats were led by Mahnke, who went 1 for 4 with a 2-run home run in the fifth inning. Kristina Pacheco earned the win for Fruita by allowing four hits to the Panthers.

The Wildcats play Durango today in a doubleheader at Kronkright Park beginning at 10 a.m.


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