Six-run 6th inning lifts Tigers past Central
For five innings, Central High School starting pitcher Alex Kitzman had the Tigers tamed.
The Tigers, though, clawed their way back in the baseball game Tuesday night, making Kitzman throw more pitches until they broke through, scoring six runs in the sixth inning to defeat Central 8-6 at Suplizio Field.
“Kitzman did a great job,” Grand Junction coach Kyle Rush said. “He might of gotten a little tired in the sixth. We’ve had big innings all year and happened to have one in the sixth tonight.”
Cory DeRush, Andy Willett drew walks and Michael McGovern was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Casey Burns followed with a single to center field to drive in one run. Sean Rubalcaba followed with another RBI single, but Grand Junction trailed 6-4.
“(Kitzman) kind of lost it,” Central coach Chuck Yost said. “I don’t know if the adrenaline got to him or if he was more tired than he let on. He said he felt good, but he couldn’t find the strike zone.”
Yost pulled Kitzman, but a new pitcher didn’t bother Grand Junction junior Hutten Veatch. With a full count, he hit a bases-clearing, three-run triple to the left-center field gap to give the Tigers a 7-6 lead.
“That was the first time we really got some people on base,” Veatch said. “They brought a new pitcher in. I saw him warm up and he was missing a lot. I took until I got a strike. I got a good pitch and drove it.
“It feels pretty good. It’s great momentum for the whole team.”
One out later, Veatch scored on a balk as Marcus Wirth attempted to steal second base after a walk.
Until the sixth, Kitzman limited Grand Junction (7-1, 2-0 SWL) to two runs on five hits and had five strikeouts. His only blemish through five innings came in the third when he gave up an RBI triple to DeRush.
The Warriors (5-2, 0-1 SWL) got runners on base against Grand Junction starter Stephen Baldwin, and pushed one run across in the third. Baldwin gave up one run on two hits, three walks and struck out five in three innings.
“We got some kids that can swing the bat just as well,” Yost said. “That game could’ve gone either way. We had a chance with the tying run at second base. We had some opportunities, but didn’t capitalize.”
Chandon Rose came in relief of Baldwin in the fourth, but struggled, allowing three earned runs on two hits in two innings.
Rose walked or hit four batters in the fifth inning and, along with a defensive error, allowed Central to score three runs and take a 4-2 lead.
Central’s Alec Rupe tripled home a run and scored on a sacrifice fly in the sixth before Garrick Lemley came in and pitched out of the jam.
“Baldwin wasn’t feeling good,” Rush said. “He wasn’t right. Chandon came in and he wasn’t right. We went with Lemley in the end and he got it done for us. He did a great job shutting them down in the seventh.”
Lemley limited Central to one hit, one walk and struck out two in two innings of relief for the win.