Opponents’ timely hitting knocks GJ out of 5A playoffs
ARVADA — With shorter fences than most ballparks, the baseball field at Ralston Valley High School tends to be a bit of a hitter’s park.
On Sunday, that reality quickly stood out as the Grand Junction High School baseball team lost 7-6 to Mountain Vista in the first round of the Class 5A District 8 playoffs. The teams combined for five home runs with all of Grand Junction’s scoring coming as a result of the long ball.
“It’s a good hitting park for all of us,” Grand Junction catcher Aaron Berk said. “Everybody had good swings here and there, and it was just a matter of the timely hits.”
The timely hits ended up coming from the opposing dugout.
Trailing 6-1 after the third inning, Mountain Vista scored two runs in the fourth inning and three in the fifth off a combined seven hits. A solo home run by Robert Kissner in the sixth gave the Golden Eagles the lead.
In comparison, the Tigers weren’t able to score a single run in the final four innings. Instead, they logged 10 straight outs, eight coming on fly balls. They only had two base runners, both in the seventh inning.
“We put it on early and then we let a kid who we were hammering settle down,” Grand Junction coach Kyle Rush said. “We just didn’t get it done.”
“It sucks when you go flat there in the later innings,” Berk added. “You jump out to a hot lead and can’t put it away.”
Grand Junction’s early success came largely as a result of patience at the plate. In the first inning, Cory DeRush and Andy Willett, the two and three hitters for the Tigers, were able to make it on base because of walks. Berk then hit a three-run home run for the early lead.
A similar inning came in the third, when DeRush reached base after being hit by a pitch. Willett hit a home run to deep center to give the Tigers a 5-1 lead. Two batters later, Jayke Brock hit a solo shot over the left field fence for the Tigers’ final run.
“I don’t know if people just got a little intimidated or what was going on, but nobody seemed like they wanted to hit the ball today,” Berk said.
Tyler Stanford picked up the loss in his final game for the Tigers, allowing six runs on 14 hits.
“You go out there and try to throw strikes, hit your spots and do the best you can,” Stanford said about dealing with the offense. “I mean, shoot, that happens sometimes on big fields — the balls just carry out, but obviously the shorter fences made it a lot easier for it to carry.”