For the first three innings of its season, the Fruita Monument High School baseball team’s bats didn’t make much noise against Palisade junior Cooper Narenkivicius.
Going into the bottom of the fourth inning Tuesday at Suplizio Field, the Wildcats and Bulldogs were tied at 1-1. Fruita’s Jack Dere had an RBI double in the third inning and Ryder Mancuso had an RBI single for Palisade. Outside of Dere’s double, the Wildcats had only three hits.
Keenan Oxford’s pinch-hit triple to the center field wall in the fourth inning triggered a cascade of runs for the ’Cats. Fruita Monument scored six runs in the inning, including a three-run home run by Jacob Weaver, and pulled away from Palisade 12-1 in five innings in a game that was postponed by rain on Monday.
“Our bats weren’t really hot,” Weaver said. “Once we were able to get that going, our momentum picked way up, our energy picked up, everyone got hyped up and we all started hitting and putting hits together. It was a great kick for us.”
After Oxford’s triple, Joel Lively followed with an RBI single to center and Tucker Buniger also had an RBI single. Weaver’s three-run shot landed in the bleachers in left field for a 6-1 lead.
“It really shows us how well teamwork works and it gets us ready for our next game,” Buniger said. “It shows us that, when we play together, we can really do something special on the field.”
Fruita wasn’t done with its fourth-inning damage. Dere picked up his second RBI of the game with a single to scored Cort McDaniel.
The fifth inning was more of the same from Fruita. Buniger ripped an RBI single down the right-field line, scoring Kade Bessert. With the bases load, Weaver drew a walk to score Jace Hinton and increase the lead to 9-1.
Dere’s bases-clearing triple ended the game via the run rule.
“We just wanted to come out and hit the ball hard while trying our pitchers out,” Dere said. “I think we just got tired of the score being so close. We knew that we were the dominant team and needed to take it to them. We did that and it felt good.”
The scoring barrage helped Fruita end the game early, but the Wildcats’ pitching performance ensured they would likely have won even without the extra insurance. Weaver on the mound, with Andrew Jordan — who earned the win — and Bessert also pitching.
The trio limited Palisade to three hits.
Weaver finished with two hits, two runs and four RBI. Dere had three hits and five RBI and Buniger also had three hits with two RBI. McDaniel also had a multi-hit game
Three of those players are seniors, with Dere being a junior. They hope this strong of a start to the season will inspire the team’s younger players.
“We have a young team, lots of young guys in the dugout,” Weaver said. “We just wanna be good influences and role models for them. Starting like this, with a lot of energy, is going to help them out a lot and get us prepared for the season.”