Orchard Mesa tops Fruita in title game
Slow pitching thrives on impatient batters, and it worked against Orchard Mesa’s hitters early in the Little League Major Girls District 1 fastpitch softball championship game Monday.
It can be so hard to do as the coaches preach — keep your hands back and wait — when the ball is begging to be crushed.
But Orchard Mesa adjusted the second time through its batting order, erased a 2-1 deficit and pulled away for a 9-3 win in six innings over Fruita to earn the berth in the state tournament for 11- and 12-year-old girls.
“We hit better off fast pitching,” Orchard Mesa manager Richard Gellermann said. “We love fast pitching.”
The patience they needed arrived in the bottom of the third inning. After Megan Rubalcaba walked, Camryn Sanchez drove a pitch over the center fielder’s head and settled for a double instead of a triple because Rubalcaba fell on her way to third base. They missed out on the tying run there, but Melissa Gellermann followed by doubling down the left field line to put Orchard Mesa in the lead for good, 3-2.
In the fourth inning, Gellermann struck again. With the bases loaded, she blasted a shot over the left fielder’s head, good for a triple and three runs, and she had designs on an inside-the-park home run but got caught in a pickle and was tagged out at home.
But the lead expanded to 7-2, and that was plenty for Orchard Mesa and Gellermann, who pitched a complete game, scattered three hits, didn’t allow a walk and struck out 12. After allowing a run in each of the first two innings, she blanked Fruita for the next three frames. In the fifth and sixth innings, she combined to strike out four batters, three of them looking.
Melissa Gellermann said the lack of a swing at third strikes was a matter of effectively using her rise ball and change-up.
Richard Gellermann, Melissa’s father as well as her coach, said she mixed her pitches well and was hitting the inside corner.
“It looks like it’s going to hit you,” he said of her inside-corner pitch. “And she spins it really well. It’s a really hard pitch to hit.”
Melissa Gellermann led Orchard Mesa at the plate with two hits and five RBI, while Rubalcaba walked three times and scored twice, Jenna Sutliff drove in two runs, Hannah Hutto was 2 for 2 and drew a walk, and Sanchez scored twice.
Now, it’s on to the state tournament, where Orchard Mesa hopes to win the title, just as it did a year ago.
The tournament starts Friday night in Kremmling.
■ In other District 1 Little League tournaments:
Major Boys: Monument beat Fruita 19-10 to earn a spot in the championship game Wednesday in Glenwood Springs. Fruita will play an elimination game today against Durango, which beat Montrose 10-6.
Junior Boys: Three Rivers beat Durango 14-11 to claim a spot in Wednesday’s title game. Durango will play an elimination game at Deerfield Park in Rifle today against Grand Mesa, an 11-5 winner over Orchard Mesa.
11-year-old Boys: At Monument Little League, Fruita stayed alive with a 2-0 win over Durango and will play Montrose today for the chance to play Monument for the title Wednesday.
9 & 10 B Boys: At Fruita Little League, Monument beat Montrose 18-2 to earn a spot in the championship game Wednesday. Montrose will play an elimination game today against Three Rivers No. 2, which eliminated Fruita 20-10.