RIFLE, Colorado - Basalt High School's baseball team sure didn't treat Thursday's game against the Rifle Bears like a nonleague game.
By contrast, the Bears couldn't treat the Longhorns like the doormats they were a year ago.
Behind a four-run fifth inning, Rifle rallied from a one-run deficit in the fifth inning for a 7-4 victory to hand Basalt, the No. 8-ranked team in the Class 3A baseball poll, its first loss of the season.
"I thought they played a pretty good game today," said Rifle coach Troy Phillips, whose team beat Basalt 8-0 and 24-1 in a doubleheader sweep to end the regular season last year before moving up to 4A this season. "Their pitcher [Spencer Glasener] commanded the zone enough to make us put it in play, and their guys made plays. We hit a lot of balls hard today, but they were right at people.
"Obviously, the fact that they were 6-0 and had beaten some good teams showed that they've made quite a bit of progress."
Rifle (6-3), coming off a tough loss to Summit this past Saturday, pounded out eight hits, with four of them coming in a four-run fifth inning that rallied the Bears from a 4-3 deficit. Sophomore Angel Diaz led the way, going 3-for-3 at the plate and pitching 21⁄3 scoreless innings of relief to earn the pitching victory in his first varsity appearance on the mound.
"This feels great," Diaz said. "We're trying to make everything perfect after that loss. This shows how hard we've worked."
Tim Johnson had two hits for Basalt, including an RBI double in the fourth inning that put the Longhorns up 2-1.
Basalt won only five games last season, so a three run loss to a Rifle team that won a league title last season would have been a moral victory in 2012. Not this year, though.
"Our mindset now is that we don't want to lose, and 7-4 against a good Rifle team is still a loss," said Basalt coach Rick Ryan, who took over for Mike Hoffman this season. "We'll talk about the things that we can fix from this one. Maybe we can look back down the road and say this was a good loss for us. But right now, I don't think we want to lose at all."
Basalt took the lead for the last time in the top of the fifth inning.
Mark Barto scored from second base to tie the game 3-3 on a single from Glasener. Rifle catcher Wyatt Robinson tagged Barto before he reached the plate but couldn't hold on to the ball. Glasener later scored on an RBI single from Nick Calabro, giving the 'Horns a 4-3 lead.
Rifle came right back in the bottom of the fifth. Triston Quigley led off with a single, stole second base and scored on Danny Bartels' single to center field. Diaz singled, and Bartels and Diaz pulled off a double steal to put them on second and third with no outs.
Teig Hauer grounded out to drive in Bartels, who scored when Basalt catcher Cody Hoffman dropped a throw from third baseman Jake Levy. Diaz then scored on a groundout by Layton Stutsman, and an infield single from Robinson drove Hauer in from third base to cap Rifle's scoring.
Diaz took it from there, allowing three hits with three strikeouts in his time on the mound.
"This was good," Phillips said. "It was good to get on the field after a loss, especially a tough loss like the Summit game was. It's good not to let something like that linger."