The prep baseball team from Grand Junction, Colo., made its excursion to the Phoenix area a picture-perfect one on Thursday (March 27).
Grand Junction executed a suicide squeeze bunt by which even a major-league team would be impressed, helping the Tigers overcome an early deficit for a 4-2 victory over host Phoenix Scottsdale Christian in the Coach Bob National Invitational tournament.
Grand Junction trailed 2-0 in the early going, then picked up single runs in the fifth and sixth innings to tie it.
With one out in the top of the seventh, Tyler Mantlo reached on an error and advanced to third on a ground-rule double by Dillon Fante.
Max Fransen stepped into the batter’s box for the Tigers and Mantlo took off from third. Fransen put the ball down on the third-base side and Mantlo scored. Fransen reached first safely by diving into the bag in a cloud of dust.
Fante scored on a wild pitch to give Grand Junction a two-run cushion and Mantlo did the rest on the mound in the bottom of the seventh, setting the Eagles down in order.
The squeeze wasn’t just something that was cooked up by Grand Junction coach Donnie Alexander and his assistants off in the corner of the dugout.
“We tried it on Tuesday (first game of the tournament), but the ball (pitch) was in the dirt and we ended up scoring anyway,’’ Alexander said.
That was an eventful day, too.
Grand Junction trailed 10-5 and scored 14 runs in the top of the seventh for a 19-10 victory over Sandy, Ore.
Of the win over Scottsdale Christian, Alexander said, “We kept battling today. We had some patience at the plate. They (Scottsdale) are a good ballclub, but they are young. We are kind of the opposite. We have nine seniors, have a lot of experience.’’
Alexander, a former assistant coach at Central Arizona (junior) College near Coolidge, will lead Grand Junction against host Surprise Valley Vista on Friday (March 28).
Scottsdale Christian scored a run in the first when a runner on first took off for second and got in a rundown, and the runner at third scored a fraction of a second before the catcher applied the tag.
The Eagles scored again in the fourth when Markus Skundrich led off with a single and advanced to second when the ball got past the right fielder for an error and then came home on a throwing error by the catcher.