Young ‘Cats hit well, fall in Fanning Classic
With both teams shaking off the winter rust, the pitching wasn’t sharp in Thursday’s season opener in the Bill Fanning Memorial Classic between Fruita Monument and Brighton.
But that was the only thing suggesting it was an early season game for the Wildcats, who fell 10-8 at Canyon View Park.
One year after graduating eight seniors, Wildcats coach Ray McLennan said it was exciting to see his relatively young team swinging hot bats, committing only two errors and not giving up after falling behind.
“We didn’t get down on ourselves, and that’s great to see with this group,” McLennan said. “We had every chance to give up on this game because we’re a young team, but these guys stayed in it and fought back against a very good Brighton team. It says a lot about this group’s perseverance. They kept battling.”
Brighton (1-0) posted three runs in the first inning, largely thanks to hitting three pitches high in the strike zone for doubles. In the second inning, the Bulldogs scored five runs, capped by a grand slam from Conner Reynolds that traveled at least 370 feet to left-center field.
But where a young team might normally fold, the Wildcats (0-1) battled back.
Fruita Monument ace Colton Chamberlain was chased after 1 1/3 innings, but juniors Jacob Worth and Sam Graf were solid in relief, and for the first three innings the Wildcats’ hitters always had an answer.
In the bottom of the first inning, Dylan Row singled, then Cody Basinger and Luke Goodrich walked. After Row scored on a balk, Basinger scored on a wild pitch and sophomore Cuba Bess singled home Goodrich to tie the game.
Bess struck again in the third inning, keying a five-run frame for Fruita Monument with a two-run double. Goodrich singled in a run, and Graf scored on a balk immediately after hitting a triple.
McLennan said Bess, who started at first base for the Wildcats, had performed well during summer baseball. Bess had only three plate appearances his freshman year, and he was hit twice by pitches and a struck out once.
During Thursday’s season opener, Bess hit with confidence, finishing 2 for 3 with a team-high three RBI.
“Believe it or not, he had his chances with us last season and especially in the summer season,” McLennan said. “He’s been able to see some quality pitching, and he’s confident when he steps into the box. It’s great to see him stepping up and contributing for us because we have a bunch of new guys in bigger roles.
“We hit the ball well today and just came up a little short. The last six at-bats we had were all well-hit balls, they were just right at guys. These guys are doing some good things, they just didn’t fall today.”
With the score tied 8-8, Grant Stagg nearly ran down a shallow flare to right field, but he came up inches short, and two Brighton base runners scored on the play.
After a slow start to the game, Graf and Bulldogs reliever Morgan Beauman burned through the final four innings, with Brighton’s two runs being the only blemishes.