Hutto’s arm, bat lift Tigers past Wildcats

Grand Junction softball coach Si Espinoza likes Hannah Hutto as a shortstop. On Thursday, he liked Hannah Hutto the pitcher even more.

Hutto was in control much of the time during her complete-game four hitter, which accompanied her four-RBI performance that helped lift the Tigers to a 5-1 victory over Fruita Monument at Bergman Field.

“She came to play tonight,” Espinoza said. “That was huge. She’s definitely our ace right now, and we’re going to ride her as long as we can. She’s a great shortstop as well, but right now we need her in the circle.”

Hutto was the difference-maker for the Tigers (7-7, 3-0 Southwestern League) and shut down a Fruita squad that had averaged more than 10 runs per game in its previous four. She struck out nine, walked one and set down 14 of 15 batters — including 12 in a row — to take a shutout into the seventh inning.

Hutto also hit a three-run home run in the bottom of the second inning to help set the tone for her pitching performance. The home run almost didn’t happen: her drive to left field was only a few feet away from going foul.

“When I saw it going, I was kind of praying it would stay in,” Hutto said with a smile. “I knew I hit it solid, but I was hoping I didn’t pull too much.”

Katie Sparks and Morgan Veek each hit triples and Shay Cutshall had a double for the Wildcats (4-10, 1-2), who have lost two straight after winning four of their previous five. Brandi Haller allowed four hits with no walks and two strikeouts, keeping the Tigers scoreless for the final five innings.

Grand Junction took the lead for good when Megan Rubalcaba’s RBI double to left-center field scored Erica Broderson from first base, and Rubalcaba then scored from second off a ball hit by Hutto resulted in an infield throwing error from Fruita. The Tigers scored all of their second-inning runs with two outs when Broderson and Rubalcaba walked and Hutto hit her three-run shot on a full-count fastball.

That momentum carried over into the circle for Hutto, who didn’t allow another Fruita Monument base runner until Lauryn Steele’s two-out, bouncing-ball single up the middle in the fifth inning.

“Any time you hit a three-run jack like that, it’s huge,” Espinoza said. “It did transfer out to the circle and she was hitting her spots. I mean, we came and watched them against Central (an 11-7 Fruita loss on Tuesday), and they can swing it. This was a huge win for us.”


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