The right pitch

Baldwin's complete game leads GJ past Durango

Grand Junction’s Jeff Hansen slides into home plate Saturday to score the final run in the Tigers’ 6-3 victory over Durango at Canyon View Park. The win over the Southwestern League-leading Demons gave Grand Junction some momentum heading into the final two games of the season.

Grand Junction’s Sean Rubalcaba connects on a single Saturday in the sixth inning of the Tigers’ 6-3 victory over Durango at Canyon View Park..

He clipped corners, sent batters kneeling backward with called-strike curveballs, varied speeds on his fastball and then, when Durango’s confusion (and strikeout count) seemed to climax, Steve Baldwin dropped over an array of change-ups.

After 106 pitches, a complete game and Grand Junction’s 6-3 win over Durango at Canyon View Park on Saturday, Baldwin tried to assess how fast he may have thrown some of those fastballs.

“I can only tell by how sore my arm is,” Baldwin said. “It’s pretty sore.”

Grand Junction (12-6, 5-3 Southwestern League) might need to win its final two games — Tuesday against Fruita Monument and Thursday against Central — to reach the playoffs.

But in defeating Durango, the league leader before Saturday, Grand Junction moved closer to postseason possibilities.

Montrose and Durango, because they’re Class 4A teams, cannot end up first and second in the SWL, or vice versa, if Grand Junction, Fruita or Central are to make the postseason.

If Durango wins the league title, for example, whichever of the three Class 5A Grand Junction area teams finishes second will make the playoffs.

But back to Saturday. Grand Junction took a 5-1 lead after two innings.

In the sixth inning, Baldwin said he began “gassing up” his fastball.

“(Durango) got him fired up in the sixth,” Grand Junction coach Kyle Rush said. “Basically they were talking smack to him. But it was a good, clean high school baseball game.”

But afterward, as the teams lined up and congratulated each other, an umpire said Grand Junction’s Chandon Rose punched a player from Durango.

“He didn’t,” Rush said. “(Durango) knows it, we know it, but one guy said he did.”

Rose received a postgame ejection, Rush said.

“I didn’t do it,” Rose said. “We were going through the line, (the Durango player) punched my hand pretty hard, we bumped shoulders, and that was it.”

It’s unknown whether Rose will be eligible to play Tuesday against Fruita.

Rose hit an RBI single in the bottom of the first inning.

Tyler Gastineau, the Tigers’ catcher who directed Baldwin to work all sides of the plate, hit an RBI double down the left-field line that put Grand Junction ahead 5-1 in the bottom of the second.

Then Baldwin almost lost control. He hit the first batter in the top of the third, then gave up a double. But Baldwin somehow became a rejuvenated pitcher, retiring the next three batters in easy order: infield fly out, strikeout looking, strikeout swinging.

“I just kept my head clean,” Baldwin said. “Not let it get in my head at all. And just throw with intensity.”

Baldwin, who has been clocked at 90 mph, showed how formidable he can be when hitting spots and countering his fastball with an effective change-up.

“They couldn’t catch up to his fastball,” Gastineau said. “Then he starting bringing his off-speed pitch late in the game. It’s dirty.”


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