Wildcats’ seven lives
Hagee's 7 RBI lifts Fruita past Central in back-and-forth game
Kohl Hagee didn’t get a Gatorade shower Friday night, but it was a worthy celebration all the same.
The junior collected seven RBI, clearing the bases twice for the Fruita Monument High School baseball team, and had a pair of water bottles dumped on him by his teammates after a roller-coaster 17-12 win over Central at Suplizio Field.
Hagee was hitting .400 coming into the game, used primarily as a pinch hitter at the varsity level, but came up big for the Wildcats (11-4, 4-0 Southwestern League).
With the Warriors (10-4, 2-2) leading 12-9 in the sixth inning, Fruita loaded the bases for Hagee. He responded by dropping a double into the left-center gap to tie the game.
“It was a new pitcher, if I remember correctly, and Coach (Ray McLennan) told me ‘Your pitch down the middle; he hasn’t had very much time to warm up,’ ” Hagee said. “I looked for a pitch to drive and I did it.”
Fruita’s dugout was amped after the hit, and even more so when Druw Sackett gave the Wildcats the lead with a double up the line in left to score Hagee. Central got two outs after that, but Fruita had seized momentum in the back-and-forth game.
The Wildcats loaded the bases again in the seventh and Hagee delivered once more. Tyler Tuell gave Fruita a two-run cushion with a single, then Hagee crushed a pitch well out of the zone to the fence for a triple.
“Oh, gosh, I was starting to swing at the pitch and all I could think is ‘Why am I swinging at this pitch? It’s high,’ ” Hagee said. “It all ended up well. Felt good off the bat and (McLennan) was waving me around second and I was like ‘Are you sure?’ I kept running around, popped up at third and it was awesome. Great feeling.”
Hagee’s first run-scoring hit in the fourth inning was limited to a single when he tripped rounding first. The second was limited by his coach, who held him up at second. For the third, McLennan said it was a huge day for Hagee and he decided to let him keep running.
“That first time he cleared the bases, he was a little slow coming around first and I decided not to send him,” McLennan said. “I was kinda kicking myself, because I think he could have made it. Kohl’s not the fleetest of foot and I held him in that situation, but the second one, he was barrelling. He was going and he deserved that one very much.”
Pitching took a backseat to hitting as big rallies resulted in each team posting three or more runs in three innings.
The initial surge came from Central in the bottom of the first inning as the Warriors scored four runs. With a steady wind blowing out, Koby Steves dropped a leadoff double onto the warning track. A sacrifice fly moved Steves to third, then Ryan Kirby poked a single back up the middle to tie the game.
Hunter Kelchner added another warning-track double and Ryan Weller was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Dakota Dunham then laced a hard single to right field, driving in one run, and a throwing error allowed another runner to cross the plate. A sacrifice fly from Paul Salazar capped the rally.
Fruita cut one run out of Central’s lead in the second inning and, after a quiet third, the Warriors piled on three more to take a 7-3 lead. The rally started with a single from Salazar, included a bunt from Cade Balleweg that traced the chalk towards third base, and ended with a double from Kirby.
The teams traded five-run rallies in fifth — highlighted by two-run singles from Fruita’s Tony Guadnola and Central’s Kelchner — before Hagee broke the game open in the final two innings. The Wildcats tallied 14 runs across the final three innings to complete the sweep of it’s SWL opponents in the Grand Valley.
“It gives us a ton of confidence, beating those teams, and it’s the first time we’ve done it since I’ve been here,” said McLennan, who is in his 10th season with the Wildcats. “It is big. They’re two really good baseball teams, too, and every Southwestern League game is tough.”