Tigers top rival Wildcats in regular-season baseball finale at Suplizio Field
Hutten Veatch is comfortable hitting in the late innings with the game on the line.
The Grand Junction High School junior came through with a big three-run home run to lead the 10th-ranked Tigers to a 14-9 victory over Fruita Monument in each team’s league finale Tuesday night at Suplizio Field.
“We’ve been down before and knew we had to stay relaxed,” Veatch said. “We were getting ourselves out on bad swings and giving up small errors. We relaxed at the plate and put something together.”
Grand Junction (17-2, 9-1 SWL) had already clinched at least a share of its seventh consecutive league title, and could likely host a district tournament a week from Saturday. Pairings will be announced a week from today.
“We didn’t start strong,” Grand Junction coach Kyle Rush said. “Our starting pitching in both games wasn’t where we needed it to be. Our relievers came in and did a great job. This was the same story as the first game, but we hit the ball a little better this game. We had to get the win and we got the win.”
Fruita Monument (12-7, 6-4 SWL) looked like it would hurt the Tigers’ hopes of hosting a district, taking advantage of two errors and scoring six runs in the first inning.
Dallin Wright singled home two runs and scored on a sacrifice fly. Ryan Blair had a two-run double.
Grand Junction starter Chandon Rose, who pitched a complete game Friday, made it through the first inning, but not the second.
Stephen Baldwin came in and limited the Wildcats to three unearned runs through the fifth and picked up the win as the Tigers rallied a second time against their crosstown rival.
Casey Burns drove in the first run on a single and Sean Rubalcaba came through with a grand slam to center field, then Veatch hit a solo shot in the top of the third.
“We did it last time against them,” Rush said. “We’ve been down. We were down the first game just the same and got it done. I’d rather have some better starts the next week or two, but right now I’ll take it.”
The next inning, Wright, who started for the Wildcats, left with tightness in his right pitching arm.
Although Fruita Monument bounced back to score three runs off three Grand Junction errors in the next three innings, it wasn’t enough.
Fruita reliever Shai Fullmer couldn’t silence the Junction bats as the Tigers scored seven runs in the sixth.
“They hit all the way through that lineup,” Fruita coach Ray McLennan said. “That’s why they are league champs.
“Our kids played hard. I was pleased with the way we swung the bats and competed.”
Cory DeRush and Andy Willett hit back-to-back RBI triples then one walk later Burns singled home the go-ahead run. Rubalcaba walked, then Veatch crushed a fastball into the parking lot for a 13-9 lead. Veatch was 2 for 5 with four RBI.
“Hutten is doing great for us right now,” Rush said. “Everything he does, he squares it up. When we need things to happen, he’s done it for us all year.” The Tigers added a run in the seventh on a wild pitch.