Tigers fall in districts
A pitcher’s duel suddenly turned into a one-sided affair.
Doherty broke open a one-run game in its last at-bat Saturday to defeat Grand Junction 6-0 at Canyon View Park to eliminate the Tigers in the Class 5A District 3 baseball playoffs.
The Spartans (12-9), the 29th seed, went on to defeat Heritage 5-4 for the district title and advance to the state series later this week.
While Doherty prepares for state, the Tigers (17-3), who were shut out for the first time this season, can only ponder what could’ve happened if they took advantage of some scoring opportunities.
Grand Junction left eight runners on base, six in scoring position.
“We just didn’t get anything going,” Grand Junction coach Kyle Rush said. “That’s what you find when you run into No. 1 (pitcher) early. We just didn’t do a good job today.”
Doherty ace Jake Dittman (5-3), a senior right-hander, allowed six hits, two walks and struck out eight.
“We’ve been turning to him and he comes through all the time,” Doherty coach Chris Solarek said. “He does just enough to get by. He kept ball in the zone, but they didn’t square up on too many of them.”
Grand Junction had a prime opportunity to score the first run of the game in the third inning when Tyler Gastineau hit a one-out triple to the left-center field gap, but Dittman induced a short fly ball to right field and picked up a strikeout.
Doherty pushed a run across in the top of the fourth for a 1-0 lead, but there was still plenty of game left for the Tigers.
Michael McGovern doubled down the left-field line in the fourth with two outs, but Dittman struck out another batter to get out of the inning.
Charlie Willett led off the bottom of the sixth with a single to right. One batter later, Andy Willett beat out a throw and McGovern walked to load the bases with one out.
Dittman, though, didn’t panic.
Instead, Casey Burns and Sean Rubalcaba popped up to get Dittman and the Spartans out of the jam.
“He’s good,” Rush said. “You can’t take it away from him. He popped it up on us. We never got it going and we folded up shop after we didn’t get it done in the sixth.”
Doherty put up five runs in the seventh inning to chase Grand Junction starter, Chandon Rose (4-1), who limited the Spartans to one run and struck out eight in six innings.
“It was (Rose’s) best performance of the year,” Rush said. “Maybe he got a little tired in the seventh, but what do you do?”
Cody Sedlak led off with a single and scored on Brandon Phillips’ triple to right-center. After a walk, Brandon Ferrell hit a three-run home run for a 5-0 lead.
“We changed our approach just a little bit,” Solarek said. “We tried not to get deep in the count, get to him early and it seemed to work out for us.”
Brandon Thompson relieved Rose, but gave up a double and a run-scoring single before getting out of the inning.
Grand Junction had two more base runners in the bottom half, but again left them stranded.