Round 2: Grand Junction.
Riding the momentum of an emotional comeback victory Tuesday night, the Grand Junction High School baseball team beat Central for the second time this week with a 13-1 win Thursday night at Suplizio Field.
Unlike the suspenseful 6-5 thriller Tuesday, the Tigers (10-4, 2-0 Southwestern League) deleted the drama Thursday with early offense and the shutdown pitching of senior Derek Shaver.
Shaver, a Wichita State signee, pitched six shutout innings, striking out eight in the cool fall-like conditions.
The Tigers' offense backed Shaver with two first-inning runs on an RBI double by Christian Hafey and an RBI single by Levi Prall.
"It helps a lot, obviously, getting a little bit of a cushion," Shaver said. "It was a little cold at the beginning. It took until about the fourth inning to get warmed up. Then I started getting into a rhythm."
Shaver gave up a single in the first to Central's Riley Roper.
The Warriors' Koby Rubalcaba and Cade Balleweg both singled against Shaver in the second. But the Grand Junction senior pitched out of trouble and then retired the next eight consecutive batters. He allowed only four hits in six innings.
"Every time I go out there, I just try to throw strikes and force outs," Shaver said. "I mixed in a lot of sliders (Thursday), more than I usually throw. And I mixed in my two-seam (fastball), too. It got the job done. I was happy with it."
His Tiger teammates pounded out 12 hits against three different Central pitchers.
Hafey, who doubled to drive in another run in the fourth inning, reached base five times Thursday night. He was 3 for 3 with two RBI and four runs scored.
"The goal is to have a good, quality at-bat. Especially with the guys around me," Hafey said. "I was seeing my pitch early in the count."
Hafey scored in Grand Junction's three-run sixth inning. And he crossed the plate again when the Tigers scored six times in the top of the seventh.
"Everyone was hitting really well," Hafey said, adding that the Grand Junction hitters are always eager to support Shaver's pitching.
"It's so much fun (with Shaver pitching)," Hafey said. "He's always around the dish; he always gives us a chance to win."
Sergio Moreno, who was 3 for 6 with three runs scored, started the Tigers' offense with a hustling double to open the game.
Zac Coleman had three hits and four RBI in the win.
Grand Junction catcher Jared Hanks had four RBI and led the team in compliments from teammates and coaches.
"Jared is a stud," Shaver said. "We've known each other a long time. We have a lot of chemistry. I have a lot of trust and confidence … having him behind the plate."
Grand Junction coach Justin Little echoed Shaver's sentiments.
"Our pitching staff would not be the way they are without him," Little said. "He calls most of the game; it's his game. I have 100 percent confidence in him."
Little said the Tigers responded to the pressure-packed win over Central on Tuesday with immediate offense Thursday.
"Our goal was to put pressure on them from the get-go," Little said. "We did that. In that seventh inning (on Tuesday), our at-bats were awesome. Every single one of the kids had a hard-nosed at-bat. We kept that approach (Thursday) and it worked."
Central (8-9, 0-2 SWL) battled back in the seventh inning against Grand Junction reliever Blaine Butler.
Rubalcaba led off the inning with a walk. He moved up on a wild pitch and a single by Balleweg.
Paul Salazar doubled down the right-field line to score Rubalcaba and avoid the shutout.
Salazar finished with two hits as did Balleweg.