The right Price
Right-hander pitches Central past rival Grand Junction
With a runner on third base and the shutout in jeopardy, Michael Price struck out Grand Junction’s smooth-swinging Owen Taylor to end the fifth inning.
It was a granite-solid pitching performance by Central’s big right-hander. When he needed a pitch, he got it, and when Grand Junction put the ball in play, the Warriors’ defense was flawless.
Price finished with nine strikeouts, two walks and seven hits to lead the Warriors to a 5-0 win over Grand Junction in Southwestern League baseball Tuesday at Suplizio Field.
Price said it’s always a big game when the two rivals play.
“Coming into high school as a freshman, you always dreamed of pitching against Grand Junction,” he said. “It’s the biggest game in the SWL, and you just want to pitch your best.”
Central (10-3, 3-2 SWL) used a four-run second, then relied on Price humming on the mound and the guitar-string-tight defense behind him.
The second inning started with Price reaching on an error, then the Warriors smacked three doubles and sent eight batters to the plate.
Trey Garcia ripped a double off the left-field wall that scored Price, then Andrew Martinez followed with a run-scoring double. Wyatt McElwain turned in a great at-bat, fouling off good pitches to stay alive. The junior right-hander then protected the outside part of the plate and rifled a single to the opposite field to score Martinez. Brandon Martinez finished the inning with an RBI double to left-center.
Garcia added a sacrifice fly in the third that scored Tanner Huskey, who walked to lead off the inning.
Grand Junction starter Neil Ryan went 5 2/3 innings and pitched well aside from the second inning, when he gave up four of his six hits. He struck out four and walked three.
Price got into trouble in the first and second innings, putting two runners on in each inning. But he worked out of the jams each time.
“I was a little loose with my control early, but when I put runners on, I knew I had a good D behind me,” he said.
It was far from a smooth outing for Price, who put at least one runner on in every inning. In the fourth, he gave up a single to Tristan Lafferty and then hit Tyler Heinsma with a pitch. But Price retired the next three batters to end the inning.
Grand Junction (9-4, 2-2 SWL) kept threatening, but Price kept battling and making the big pitches when he needed them.
In the fifth, the Tigers’ Tyson Zanski, who went 3 for 4 on the game, had a one-out double and went to third on a wild pitch. Price then stabbed a comebacker to hold Zanski at third, then struck out Taylor.
The difference in the game was Central was able to put together one big inning, and then Price shut down every rally by the Tigers.
“They are a good-hitting team, and you just have to minimize damage, and that’s what (Price) did tonight,” Central coach Chuck Yost said. “He never let them string three or four hits together, and we played good defense,”
Central’s defense turned in the play of the game in the seventh when Huskey started a 6-4-3 double play with Alex Schaneman making a quick turn and throw from second.