Fruita rides hot bats to win over rival Grand Junction
Things were already starting to get out of hand Tuesday when Fruita Monument first baseman Cuba Bess sauntered up to the plate with the bases loaded in the top of the third inning at Suplizio Field.
The Wildcats already led 6-0 and had chased Grand Junction starting pitcher Tyler Mantlo. Then, Bess, who leads the Southwestern League in batting average, slugging percentage and RBI, cleared the bases with a double off the wall in center field.
Fruita Monument scored 10 runs in the top of third, then cruised to a 15-5 win in five innings to remain undefeated at 13-0 and 4-0 in SWL baseball.
“We came in locked in because we knew we’d get Mantlo,” Bess said. “We just wanted to come out here and hit like we have this whole season.”
And hit the Wildcats did.
Fruita racked up 14 hits and was aided by five errors from Grand Junction (7-4, 0-2 SWL).
Bess finished 3 for 4 with two doubles and four RBI, and Chris Cordova, Sam Graf, Sam Schroeder and Grant Stagg each had multiple hits for the Wildcats. Dylan Row finished without an official at-bat, but he walked twice, scored twice, stole a base and had two hard-hit line drives end up as sacrifice flies.
The Wildcats’ offense produced in the manner Fruita coach Ray McLennan hoped.
“Our kids were looking forward to facing Mantlo tonight,” McLennan said. “We thought we could get to him early. We were hoping to get to him early, like we did, and I thought our game plan was good. Our hitters had good approaches tonight.
“(Mantlo) is a tough kid to see, especially at first. But I thought we did a great job of being patient and wearing him down, and once we wore him down, we put him away.”
Schroeder threw four innings of one-hit baseball, placing his fastball and curveball on the outside edge of the plate.
Schroeder said he struggled in the bottom of the third inning after spending almost 45 minutes in the dugout during the top of the frame, but he added he was happy with his performance.
“I was kind of disappointed with the way I came out against Montrose,” Schroeder said of his last start, a 9-2 win. “I tried to focus and kept my head and did what I wanted to do.”
Schroeder struck out seven batters and walked one, but he was grunting audibly as he set down the side in the top of fourth inning, so McLennan opted for the bullpen.
Grand Junction’s offense got going after the pitching change, scoring five runs in the bottom of the fifth inning. During the final at-bat of the game, a Grand Junction hitter nearly legged out an infield single to extend the game, but he was ruled out on a close play at first base.