Walk-off home run lifts Gene Taylor’s into Legion state title game
Tyson Zanski led off the bottom of the ninth inning with a home run to give the Gene Taylor’s baseball team a 5-4 victory Saturday over Brighton in the semifinals of the American Legion A State Tournament.
Gene Taylor’s (31-15-1) plays Pomona at 11 a.m. today for the championship. The two teams split a league doubleheader in Grand Junction during the regular season with Gene Taylor’s winning the opener 4-0 and Pomona taking the second game 6-4.
Zanski crushed the ball for his home run, sending it over the 360-foot sign in left-center, according to Gene Taylor’s coach Dave Jahnke.
“He said when he hit it, he knew he got it,” Jahnke said. “Once it went out, everyone just went ballistic.”
With two days of rain postponing the start of the tournament and forcing a change in format from double-elimination to single-elimination, teams have little margin for error, and Jahnke said Gene Taylor’s has handled the pressure.
“It just really changes the game,” he said. “Every situation is intensified with single-elimination, and we’ve handled it better than the other teams in the first two games.”
But Gene Taylor’s went through multiple ups and downs and nail-biting situations Saturday, leading Jahnke to say, “That was an emotional roller coaster right there.”
Brighton, which swept a regular-season doubleheader, 9-3 and 13-1, eight days earlier against Gene Taylor’s, took a 3-0 lead in the top of the second.
Gene Taylor’s responded with two runs in the bottom of the second on Caleb Coleman’s two-run single, and it tied the game in the third as Troy Levinson opened the frame with a double, and Tyler Sandoval doubled him home with two outs.
Gene Taylor’s took a 4-3 lead in the fifth when Sinjin Garrett doubled in a run, but Brighton tied the score at 4-4 with a run in the sixth.
Winning pitcher Michael Price didn’t allow a run the rest of the way, despite putting two runners on base in both the eighth and ninth innings. Price got out of the jam in the eighth by striking out the final two batters looking. In the ninth, he got a strikeout and groundout after walking the leadoff hitter, and after walking another batter, he induced a groundout to second baseman Tass Crow to end the threat.
“Michael Price pitched his butt off,” Jahnke said. “He really battled, really competed. ... He really turned it on from the fourth inning on.”
Price struggled with his control early, issuing a walk and hitting a batter in the first inning, then walking four batters in the second inning. He finished with eight walks, but didn’t issue a free pass again until the eighth. Meanwhile, he scattered six hits, all singles, and he notched five of his seven strikeouts in the final four frames.
Levinson, Zanski and Nick Arcieri led Gene Taylor’s 10-hit attack with two hits apiece.