Times Staff Writer
Pitching a shutout is no easy feat. It requires a team’s defense to make plays for the pitcher, and the pitcher to employ laser-like focus for an entire game.
Yet, that is exactly what happened on Monday. Jacob Riser was a force to be reckoned with on the mound — helping his U11/U12 Gunnison black team come away with a 15-0 victory against the Paonia Eagles.
What's even more impressive about Riser’s pitching was that eight of the 12 outs in the game came on strikeouts.
“It felt really good to pitch for our coaches,” said Riser. “I’m just glad our team did really good.”
Riser came out ready to go, starting off the game by striking out two of the three Eagles batters in the top of the first inning.
In the bottom half of the inning, Paonia’s defense kept Gunnison from building much momentum. However, Riser reached base and later came around to score — giving Gunnison a 1-0 lead.
In the top of the second inning, it appeared that the Eagles were going to get on the board, with runners on second and third with zero outs. Yet, Riser struck out back-to-back batters. Paonia then made a costly mistake attempting to steal home, resulting in the final out of the inning.
The Eagles’ defense stepped up in the bottom of the second inning, making quick work of Gunnison.
After Riser struck out the side in the top of the third inning, Gunnison’s bats started to come alive, resulting in four runs coming across to score.
Kylee McDougal smacked a single to right field and was followed by Sam Anderson, who also reached base on a single, while driving home McDougal — who stole second and third base.
Before the inning came to a close, Riser reached base yet again and later came around to score on a fielder’s choice.
While the outlook improved for Gunnison as the game progressed, the complete opposite occurred for the Eagles.
In the top of the fourth inning, Paonia had a case of deja vu. They had yet another opportunity to score after an Eagles batter smacked a triple to the fence with two outs in the inning. Once again, however, Riser struck out the next batter to leave the runner stranded.
It was still anyone’s game to start the bottom of the fourth inning, with Gunnison up 4-0. But the home team decided to make sure that the Eagles didn’t get a chance to make a comeback by scoring 11 runs.
Paonia helped get things going. An error allowed Carson Zummach to reach base. Zummach then was advanced to third base on a Grady Buckhanan double over the center fielder’s head.
Zummach came around to score in the next at bat off a Ben Sergo single, followed by Buckhanan scoring on an error during a pick-off attempt.
McDougal kept the momentum going for Gunnison, singling to center field — and setting up Sergo to later come around to score on a Ryder Vincent single. The lead extended to 7-0 but grew even bigger in the next at bat, thanks to Cruz Dominguez, who drove home McDougal on a fielder's choice.
With two outs, Gunnison refused to let the inning come to a close. A Riser single drove home Vincent from third base.
Cesar Marmolejo and Nolan Frymoyer also scored in the inning.
While the game was all but over, Kellen Yoder put the icing on the cake, smacking a double that drove home Zummach and Buckhanan — who both reached base on singles — pushing the lead to 14-0.
Yoder scored the final run of the game on yet another pick-off error, resulting in the game being called due to the 10-run mercy rule.
“It felt good to get this win today,” said McDougal. “We really worked as a team and were focused the whole time. … It was a fun game.”
Gunnison black will be back on the diamond Monday, July 15. Along with the navy team, they’ll host the end-of-the-year tournament over the course of four days.
(Brandon Warr can be reached at 970.641.1414 or firstname.lastname@example.org.)