Near no-no by GJ ace helps Tigers open with a win

Charlie Willett and the Grand Junction offense were clicking Thursday in a 16-1 victory over Prairie View in the Bill Fanning Classic, with Willett hitting the first pitch for a single

Stephen Baldwin was dominant Thursday in Grand Junction’s season opener at the Bill Fanning Classic. Baldwin didn’t allow a hit and struck out 11 in the Tigers’ 16-1 victory over Prairie View.

Stephen Baldwin showed he’s ready to take the role of staff ace this season.

The Grand Junction High School junior struck out 11 batters and didn’t allow a hit Thursday as the Tigers rolled to a 16-1 victory over Prairie View in the Bill Fanning Classic at Suplizio Field in both teams’ season opener.

“It was a good start, we definitely came out and made a statement,” Baldwin said. “I think we’ll have a good run this year.”

The visiting Thunderhawks avoided a no-hitter with a bloop single off reliever Brandon Thompson that dropped in left-center field with two outs in their final inning.

“The no-hitter didn’t come in my mind until after I came out,” Baldwin said. “I was hoping to we’d finish out the no-hitter, but a one-hitter is good too.”

Thompson didn’t give up anything more than the lazy single in one inning of relief of Baldwin, who, for the most part, looked good in his new role.

“He did a great job for us,” Grand Junction coach Kyle Rush said. “He lost it a bit in the third, but comes back in the fourth and strikes out the side.

“He definitely has the stuff to be a No. 1. He was strong. He’s got to make sure he stays positive and realizes the type of pitcher he can be.”

Baldwin struck out six of the first seven batters he faced, but got into a little trouble in the third when he walked the first two batters. He walked one more and hit another batter before getting out of the bases-loaded jam with a strikeout. He allowed one run in the inning and came back to strike out the side in the fourth.

“I can always do better, but I think I did all right today,” Baldwin said.

“It’s definitely a little more responsibility on my back, but at the same time I like it. It’s a good feeling knowing I’m No. 1 (starter).”

By the time he took the mound in the fourth, the Tigers had a 16-1 lead.

“Offensively, we didn’t produce like that (last year),” Rush said. “It was nice to see that again. It’s been a while. It’s nice to put a game away early.”

Grand Junction’s offense produced 15 runs in the third inning.

Charlie Willett, who was 3 for 3 with three RBI, led off with a solo home run. Three batters later, Casey Burns hit an opposite field home run for a 6-1 lead.

The next three Junction batters walked to load the bases before Prairie View recorded the first out of the inning. Two more walks brought in two runs, then Andy Willett drove in three on a triple to right-center field. Five batters later, Tanner Peterson cleared the bases with a three-run double.

Burns was 2 for 3 with four RBI, Andy Willett was 2 for 4 with three RBI and Peterson was 1 for 3 with three RBI.


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