Montrose edges Fruita in key SWL battle

Montrose edges Fruita in key SWL battle

Fruita Monument’s Ty Burtard, right, is greeted at the plate by Walker Williams after scoring on a single by Wyatt Vidmar during the sixth inning of the Wildcats’ loss to Montrose.

If there was one late hope for Fruita Monument High School’s baseball team against Montrose starting pitcher Skylar Haynes, it was 6-foot-4 Drew Bridges.

The situation — two outs, one runner on base, bottom of the seventh inning, Fruita Monument down one run.

And a future University of New Mexico hitter at the plate.

Haynes had self-talk in his head.

“In my mind, I know I’m better than him,” Haynes said. “He’s a great hitter. But you have to go out there knowing you’re going to beat them.”

Haynes called it having a chip on his shoulder, or confidence, or talking a lot to teammates for added swagger, but whatever it was, it worked as Haynes struck out Bridges to seal Montrose’s 3-2 win on Tuesday.

Montrose (9-1, 3-1 Southwestern League), ranked No. 4 in Class 4A by the Denver Post, grabbed a league win against Fruita (9-5, 3-2), and it did so with Haynes, steady defense and a hit off the nub of a bat.

In the top of the fifth, Montrose’s Tyrus Lopez, a sophomore, had a senior moment, crushing a Connor Ruckman fastball for a double, scoring two and giving Montrose a 2-1 lead.

Solid hit?

Lopez shook his head, “No.”

A few inches toward the middle of the bat, and you have to wonder ...

“Well, it helped the team,” Lopez said. “But I hit it off the handle.”

And it helped Haynes. Facing what could be one of the more formidable middle lineups in the state, Haynes struck out 12 batters and walked one in seven innings. But it was his ability to swat away potential mental breakdowns — unrecorded yet invaluable statistics — that was most impressive to Montrose coach Landon Wareham.

“Skylar got tough today,” Wareham said.

Haynes got out of numerous situations with runners on base: bases loaded in the third inning, first and third in the fifth, and a leadoff double in the sixth by Fruita’s Ty Burtard that turned into a Wildcats run that cut the Montrose lead to 3-2.

And if the Indians have one apparent strength, it’s their ability to play at a rugby pace in a game peppered with pauses.

“We don’t take plays off,” Wareham said. “We do the same thing in practice. No half-speed. Just relentless.”

Wareham said Montrose played 57 games last summer, and throughout, Wareham preached toughness.

His incentive for making his Indians mentally tough, something that seemed to help Montrose overcome a pair of errors, Tuesday, is simple.

“We stay on them until they’re tired of hearing from us,” Wareham said.

But in a league where five teams out of six have an overall record above .500, there’s plenty of chances for Fruita to make a run up the SWL standings.

“Everyone is close,” Fruita coach Ray McLennan said. “I don’t think we’re out of it by any means.”


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