Tigers rally in sixth to top Fruita

Fruita Monument High School’s Rex Clemons connects with the ball during Tuesday’s game against Grand Junction High School at Suplizio Field.

Aaron Berk’s only goal was to keep the rally alive.

With Grand Junction trailing Fruita Monument 4-3 on Tuesday night at Suplizio Field, Berk came to bat with two outs and runners on the corners.
Fruita Monument ace Rex Clemons stood between the Tigers and victory, and

Clemons had already struck out five batters to that point.

“Rex is a good buddy of mine, and I knew he had good stuff,” Berk said. “I had the two strikes so I just wanted to sit back and see if I could get a pitch to hit.”

Berk worked his way to a full count and eventually hit a ground ball to Fruita Monument shortstop TJ Pollock. The Fruita junior fielded it cleanly, but his throw allowed Berk to reach first base safely. The errant throw allowed Tim Gastineau to score from third.

“Once I made contact I knew I had to get down the line and make something happen,” Berk said. “It was nice to finally get something going for us.”

The error tied the game 4-4 and gave Grand Junction (9-0, 3-0 Southwestern League) the momentum to work two more runs across for a 6-4 win over Fruita (5-4, 1-1).

The throw also allowed Geoff Baldwin’s pinch runner, Charlie Reicks, to advance to third. Reicks scored the go-ahead run on a passed ball.

On the same play, Clemons overthrew Cody Rahmann at third base trying to get Chris Greff, running for Berk, allowing another run to score.

Baldwin took the mound in the bottom of the seventh, and despite loading the bases, struck out Drew Bridges to seal the win.

“That is a tough ballgame, and they are a great ballclub,” Grand Junction coach Kyle Rush said. “We stole it from them.”

Wildcats coach Ray McLennan said his team was one close call away from a win.

In Berk’s at-bat in the seventh, a 2-2 changeup from Clemons was called a ball, a pitch McLennan thought was a strike.

“We thought we had (Berk) struck out,” McLennan said. “It was a game where we had control, but you come back to that at-bat, and if that is called a strike, it is over.”

The late-inning breakdown overshadowed the Wildcats’ strong start. Fruita jumped on Grand Junction in the first inning, with Ryan Mixon and Brackett Mays getting RBI singles off Grand Junction starter Conner Dixon.

Fruita added two more runs in the third inning on RBI singles by Mixon and Clemons.

“When you put them in a position to win and you don’t get a break, that’s the way it goes,” McLennan said. “I’m not disappointed in our kids’ effort at all.”

Grand Junction’s two early runs came off base hits by Berk and Zeph Quigley.
Pollock went 3 for 3 for the Wildcats and Jayke Brock led the Tigers, going 2 for 4 with a double.

Fruita Monument plays Conifer at 2 this afternoon at Canyon View Park and the
Tigers play the Lobos at 10 a.m. on Thursday.

“We can’t be flat now,” Rush said. “We don’t have a league game for about 10 days, so we are going sit on this win until Thursday when we have Conifer.”


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