Solid at-bats carry Fruita 
to Fanning Classic victory

Fruita Monument’s Zach Rush, right, celebrates with his teammates Saturday after hitting a three-run home run in the second inning of the Wildcats’ 13-3 victory over Rampart in the Bill Fanning Memorial Classic.

Deep counts, short swings and quality at-bats were the norm for the Fruita Monument High School baseball team Saturday.

The Wildcats poured on the offense in the final game of the Bill Fanning Memorial Classic to beat Rampart 13-3 in six innings at Suplizio Field.

Fruita Monument coach Ray McLennan said the team’s approach at the plate was outstanding and improved during each game of the tournament.

“We talked after the first game and I thought we were too big — too big of swings, trying to do too much,” McLennan said. “Baseball, especially at the varsity level, you have to take what’s given to you and hit the ball. I think (Colorado Mesa University baseball coach) Chris Hanks calls them competitive at-bats. We took that approach. You need to put the ball in play, hit hard grounders and line drives instead of pop-ups. Every once in a while you’ll pop one out of the park.

“We had two of those today and it’s nice, but we still have to go back to that approach of trying to hit the ball hard and trying to hit a line drive.”

The early surge started in the first inning when Fruita, down 1-0, tied it on Zach Rush’s single through the left side. Trey Morrill followed that up by tattooing a two-run home run onto the bleachers in left field.

In the second inning, it was more of the same, with Rush’s three-run home run to left field highlighting a five-run rally.

A two-run triple from Zach Coutts brought Fruita closer to a mercy-rule victory in the fourth inning and a series of hits in the sixth inning ended the game early.

Palisade 4, Horizon 3: Austin Bernal hit a two-run, two-out, walk-off single in the bottom of the seventh inning to lift the Bulldogs (1-0) past the Hawks (0-3).

Palisade gave up two runs in the first inning, but answered with one of their own in the bottom of the frame. Nate Woll tied it up in the third with an RBI single, then an error handed the lead back to Horizon.

That advantage stood for the next four innings, until the Bulldogs rallied in the bottom of the seventh.

After the first hitter struck out, Isaac Maestas worked a walk out of an 11-pitch at-bat to put the tying run on first. Freddie Horn poked a single through the left side, then Brett Wagner drew a walk.

The next batter struck out, but Bernal came through for the victory.

“That was huge,” Palisade coach Aaron Howard said. “We didn’t get a lot of runners into scoring position in that middle part of the game and the ones we did we couldn’t get across. Credit to the guys for staying on it even though we trailed for most of the game.”

A good chunk of the success can be attributed the to pitching staff, Howard said. Dan McLean, Wagner and John Taber combined to limit Horizon, with Taber receiving the win.

“Hats off to our pitching staff,” Howard said. “They were phenomenal today. We had a plan going in today and we executed it pretty well. We were able to overcome some physical mistakes we had in the field, which, for the first game of the year, its good to get those out of our system early.”

Rock Canyon 16, Grand Junction 2 (6): The Jaguars (3-0) scored 12 runs across the fifth and sixth innings to pull away from the Tigers (2-1).

Grand Junction hung with Rock Canyon for the first three innings, as strong defensive play and solid pitching from Derek Shaver kept the score close. Shaver exited after four innings pitched and things unraveled for the bullpen.


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