Fruita scores final six runs to get past Tigers
When Fruita Monument was staggered by Grand Junction’s five-run fourth inning, the Wildcats responded with a knockout punch.
Fruita Monument scored one run in the fifth and five in the sixth to beat Grand Junction 12-6 in a Southwestern League baseball game Tuesday at Suplizio Field.
“They have a lot of great athletes over there, and we knew they were going to come back,” Fruita Monument coach Ray McLennan said. “They have a counter punch, and when they score, they’re going to score big.”
The counter punch by the Tigers (3-2, 0-1 SWL) came in the fifth inning when they put five runs up to tie the game 6-6.
If the sixth inning was the knockout punch for the Wildcats, the fifth was a jab when Grant Stagg’s fielder’s-choice grounder scored Cuba Bess to make the score 7-6.
Then came the fifth, and the Wildcats (4-1, 2-0 SWL) put the first five batters on with four hits and a walk. Luke Goodrich had a two-run single, followed by a an RBI double by Bess to key the five-run inning.
After the Wildcats’ 6-1 lead went poof, Gabe Treider, who was 3 for 3 with five RBI, said they didn’t panic.
“It was big to come back and score those five runs,” he said. “We have a lot of good players and a lot of leadership, and we weren’t going to fold after giving up those five runs.”
Treider’s double plated the final run for the Wildcats. He just missed a home run in the third inning when his blast off the left-field wall resulted in a triple and two RBI.
The Wildcats used three pitchers in the victory, with starter Conner Cronkhite pitching well early and Conner Harmon shutting down the Tigers late.
“You have to tip your hat to both Conners tonight. They competed in the strike zone, and that was the difference,” McLennan said.
Harmon relieved Colton Chamberlain, who took a line drive off his leg but stayed in the game and faced one more hitter.
Harmon was special in relief. After getting the final two outs of the fifth, he finished off the game without allowing a base runner, sending all eight hitters he faced back to the dugout. He also had three strikeouts.
Cronkhite was solid over four innings, giving up only a second-inning home run to Tyson Zanski.
But the Tigers’ bats came to life in the fifth with five hits. Tristan Lafferty and Owen Taylor had back-to-back doubles to score three runs. Kaleb Johnson then ripped a two-run triple to right-center to tie the score.
McLennan admitted he may have left Cronkhite in a couple of hitters too long. But Harmon then put the Grand Junction bats back to sleep.
“We took their best punch, and we kept the game tied,” McLennan said. “We got that one run to get the lead again, then we finished them off.”
The Fruita Monument coach has said all season he has a deep pitching staff.
“It’s great to have a pitching staff where you can go two or three guys. We don’t have to roll one guy out there and rely on one guy,” he said. “We used three guys, and all three guys were effective.”
Grand Junction used four pitchers and got an effective outing from Neil Ryan after he took over for Johnson, who was roughed up and didn’t make it out of the first inning. Ryan pitched 4 1/3 innings before the Wildcats got to him in the sixth.