Senior comes through for GJ: Berk’s big hit lifts Tigers past Wildcats

Photo by William Woody—Fruita Monument’s Ryan Blair snags a poor throw Friday as Grand Junction’s Tim Gastineau slides into second in the Tigers’ 10-7 victory.

Aaron Berk has become a tough hitter to get out.

The Grand Junction High School senior has always had the physical tools to be a solid clean-up hitter, but lately, it’s been his mental approach that’s made him downright dangerous.

Friday night at Suplizio Field, Berk laced a two-run double in the sixth inning to give Grand Junction the 8-7 lead over Fruita Monument. The Tigers would go on to defeat the Wildcats 10-7.

“I was looking for a pitch to hit and (Fruita pitcher Drew Bridges) threw me a curveball,” Berk said. “It was an ugly swing, but I had enough power to flick it out there, and it was enough to get everyone in.” Berk’s been on a hot streak lately — he has six RBI in the past three games. Prior to his hot streak, Berk’s bat was cold with only one RBI in the previous eight games. The Tigers’ senior said he was thinking too much at the plate.

“I’ve worked some things out with the swing,” Berk said. “(Grand Junction head coach Kyle) Rush and I sat down and talked about the mental side of it and he told me not to worry too much. I’m a senior, I’ve already got a place to play so I’ve got to go out and have fun.”

Berk’s big hit in the sixth was the fourth consecutive extra-base hit, following Michael McGovern, Charlie Reicks and Tyler Stanford. Stanford’s RBI double scored Reicks and cut the Wildcats lead to 7-5.

Fruita Monument coach Ray McLennan said he expected Grand Junction (15-4, 8-2 Southwestern League) to make a run at some point.

“They are a veteran team that’s going to keep coming at you,” McLennan said. “We hung in there and battled.”

Fruita Monument (11-7, 5-5 SWL) jumped to a 5-0 lead on Stanford in the second inning. The Wildcats’ big inning was highlighted by Ryan Mixon’s two-run double and Cody Rahmann’s two-run home run.

“They came out ready to play,” Rush said. “Stanford was off a bit today, but we were able to settle in.”

Stanford was replaced by Reicks in the fifth inning. Reicks gave up an RBI double to Logan McLennan, but survived the inning, then thwarted any attempts at a Fruita comeback in the sixth and seventh innings.

“With the guys we have on the mound we feel pretty good,” Rush said. “We got back into the game and managed to get a win.”

Before the game, Fruita Monument honored injured senior shortstop TJ Pollock by having him start the game at shortstop. Pollock was in for one pitch before he was replaced by Bridges.

“It was neat for (TJ),” Ray McLennan said. “The seniors talked about it and we created it just to get him out there one last time on Suplizio Field.”

Both teams are in the postseason and will find out their playoff fate on Wednesday.

At Canyon View Park, Central lost to Pomona 10-0 in five innings. The Warriors host Montrose today at Suplizio Field.


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