Weather can’t slow Tigers’ baseball team

On April 1, everyone’s a prankster.

Even Mother Nature celebrated April Fool’s Day by providing the Grand Junction High School baseball team with a mix of blowing sleet and snow for its game against Conifer

The Tigers (9-1, 2-0 Southwestern League) fought the conditions for five innings to make their 5-0 defeat of Conifer official before the game was stopped because of the weather.

“It’s almost a dangerous game to play,” Grand Junction coach Kyle Rush said. “This is the coldest game I can remember in 10 years. With snow and wind hitting us in the face, that makes it tough to hit.”

One Tiger who didn’t have much trouble at the plate was Andy Willett, who went 2 for 2 and scored three runs. Willett scored the first run of the game on a RBI single by Jayke Brock. Willett made his way from second base, and on most days, would have pulled up at third base, but the Tigers’ center fielder said it was important to make the most of any scoring opportunity.

“I know it’s hard to hit when it’s this cold,” Willett said. “So when I got chances, I tried to get whatever I could.”

Willett’s runs in the third and fourth innings came on passed balls that Lobos catcher Devin Riley couldn’t track down quick enough.

“He got on base every time, and he’s fast,” Rush said. “We sent him around the bases because it was a day where to be a hitter wasn’t a good thing.”

The Tigers didn’t have to rely much on their bats, because Conifer pitcher Boone Henry walked eight Grand Junction batters. The Tigers put up three runs in the third inning, including two that were walked in, for a 4-0 lead.

Although Henry was giving the Tigers free passes, Grand Junction starting pitcher Steve Baldwin put together another solid outing, throwing a two-hitter and striking out nine.

“He got a lot of strikeouts so we didn’t have to make plays on a wet field,” Rush said. “His attitude and demeanor were good because it was a tough day to throw.”

Baldwin has been impressive throwing out of the Tigers’ No. 3 spot. The sophomore has a 3-0 record and a team-leading 26 strikeouts. Baldwin said it was critical to be efficient during Thursday’s adverse weather.

“My goal was to throw a good game where I kept my pitch count low,” Baldwin said. “I slowed down a little today, tried to throw strikes and have short innings.”

Behind a pitching staff that’s allowing an average of 3.6 runs per game, the Tigers are off to a solid start. Grand Junction has a big test Saturday at Ponderosa.

“It could be a good test,” Rush said. “We’ll throw Charlie (Reicks) at them and see what happens, but we have to watch what we do pitching wise because we have three league games next week.”


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