Tigers’ tenacity

GJ starts fast, holds off Palisade's comeback in season-opening victory

Grand Junction’s Megan Rubalcaba pitched six strong innings Tuesday, allowing four runs, three earned, on four hits with seven strikeouts in the Tigers’ 14-4 victory over Palisade in both teams’ season opener at Bergman Field.

The start Grand Junction High School’s softball team had Tuesday night was promising.

The tenacity the Tigers played with at the end against Palisade showed their toughness.

Grand Junction jumped to a double-digit lead to take command, then got out of three bases-loaded jams to halt the Bulldogs’ comeback attempt en route to a 14-4 victory at Bergman Field in the season opener for both teams.

“They came out ready to play and we did what we had to early on,” Grand Junction coach Si Espinoza said. “We put some runs on the board and let our defense take over from there.”

The Tigers certainly had a big cushion to work with and, for a time, looked like they would wrap the game up much sooner. Thanks in part to a three-hit game from Megan Rubalcaba, Grand Junction scored in three of the first four innings — six in the second inning alone — to take a commanding 11-0 lead into the bottom of the fourth inning. Rubalcaba also did her part in the pitcher’s circle. The senior finished with seven strikeouts, but it was the stranding of eight base runners in the final three innings to keep the Bulldogs from pulling within striking distance that was most impressive.

That late-game effort from Palisade gave coach Jeff DeCrow reason for optimism.

“I think in the first half of the game if we’re more disciplined at the plate, it’s a much different game,” DeCrow said. “We’re still young — we only have one senior (Alexys Hartman) — so we’re learning. But we’ll be fine once we get a few games under our belt.”

Rubalcaba finished 3 for 3 with four runs scored and three RBI, including a solo home run to left field in the top of the fourth inning that gave the Tigers a 10-0 lead. Alexia Thompson added two hits and Erica Broderson scored three times for Grand Junction.

Back-to-back doubles from Rubalcaba and shortstop Hannah Hutto highlighted Grand Junction’s six-run second inning that staked the Tigers to a 9-0 lead. Two innings later, Rylee Martin bumped the lead to 11-0 when her RBI double came after a double from Thompson.

A pinch-hit double from Bre Cavallaro was part of a two-run fourth that helped Palisade avert the shutout, but the Bulldogs left the bases loaded. Hartman’s RBI double pulled Palisade within 11-3 and, after Grand Junction added three more runs in the top of the sixth, the Bulldogs threatened again only to be turned away with the bases loaded.

“We have depth, and we’re starting to figure a lot of things out,” said Espinoza, who said he got some substitutes into the game in the later innings before Palisade started its comeback attempt. “It’s nice we were able to work on certain situations, and for our girls to be in some pressure spots and not crack said an awful lot. That’s definitely encouraging.”


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