Rifle baseball falls one game short of state tourney berth
Sophomore Logan Gross hit an extra-inning double. Senior teammate Gavin Peterson then hit a short gapper to get Gross comfortably across to best Evergreen 8-7.
With Saturday games in the Class 4A Region 8 postponed due to spring snow, Monday at Deerfield Park saw Rifle baseball go on a wild roller coaster ride.
After giving up two game-tying runs in the top of the seventh inning to the 31st-ranked Cougars, Peterson’s game-winning hit advanced the Bears to the Region 8 title game and a chance to stamp a state tournament berth.
“I know we made a few mistakes that kind of let them back in the game a couple times,” Rifle Head Coach Troy Phillips said of the Evergreen game. “But it was nice to see Logan (Gross), in particular, get that big hit and get to second. Then having that gapper to get the win, that will be something we always remember.”
But closing out a chilly and windy Monday evening, the Bears lost 12-2 to 15th-ranked D’Evelyn. The game prior, the Jaguars beat 18th-ranked Northridge 11-5.
Despite two consecutive home runs blasted in the first inning by Gross and Peterson, Rifle would go through three pitchers and ultimately succumb to the Jaguars’ hot bats.
The Bears’ best shot at giving starting Jaguars pitcher Troy Benko a run for his money came in the third inning.
Leading things off, Bears senior Easton Phillips doubled. Peterson then hit a grounder but got to first base after Benko tried to get Phillips out at third. This trapped Phillips in a 5-4 pickle, but he managed to slide safely back to second base.
With bases loaded later in the inning, however, Rifle junior Connor Abbott sent a grounder to second base for an easy third out.
“That was the inning we could’ve taken advantage of,” Phillips said. “If we just had a couple key hits there, it would have been back and forth all the way to the end.”
The Bears end the 2022 season with 20-5 overall, 9-3 league record.
“It’s been a special group of guys that have worked really hard, and winning that first game today was breaking the school record for wins,” Phillips said. “They’ll be able to have that kind of legacy, so it’s pretty cool that they were able to do that.”
The Bears graduate seven seniors: Phillips, Peterson, Broc and Trey Caldwell, Trevor Burgess, Jason Webster and Charlie Hisel.
Reporter Ray K. Erku can be reached at 612-423-5273 or email@example.com.
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