Rifle beats Gunnison, bound for state
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Early on this fall, the mercy-rule defeats were piling up for Rifle’s softball team.
Six straight losses to open the season greeted the Bears as they took on a brutal non-league schedule that pitted them against larger schools at every turn.
All six defeats were by eight runs or more.
But, as teams coached by Cindy Skinner and Troy Phillips typically do, Rifle turned it around.
The young and inexperienced Bears went on to win seven of their next 12 games to finish second in the 3A Western Slope League.
On Saturday, Rifle made it eight out of 13 with an 11-6 win over Gunnison in the Basalt High School-hosted 3A District 5 tournament. The win landed the Bears in next weekend’s state tournament.
“I think it’ll be a great opportunity,” said Skinner, the team’s head coach. “You know, this team could surprise anybody. They’ve worked hard this season, for as young and inexperienced as they are.
“The season started out pretty rough. We were getting 10-runned quite a bit. For them to come back, work with us, listen to us and do what they’re doing is remarkable.”
Rifle needed only the win over Gunnison to secure one of the district’s two state berths. The Bears would have faced top-seeded Basalt in the title game, but the Longhorns’ spot at state was guaranteed by virtue of their 3A WSL crown. That left nothing to play for.
Cortney Cordova and Vanessa Herrera led the way at the plate for the Bears against the Cowboys on Saturday.
Cordova smacked a triple, a single and finished with two RBIs. Herrera doubled home a run in the fourth inning. Cordova, a second baseman, also turned an unassisted double play.
A disciplined approach at the plate helped Rifle to a seven-run second inning.
“We were having the girls kind of be patient at the plate,” Skinner said. “The pitches weren’t as consistent as what we were swinging at.”
Taylor Gore picked up the win in the pitcher’s circle.
Shantel Leyba provided some solid right-field defense behind Gore, tracking down several fly balls and gunning down a runner at home plate.
Rifle will carry an 8-11 record to Aurora Sports Park, site of the Friday-Saturday state tournament. The Colorado High School Activities Association will release the 16-team 3A bracket today.
After defeating host Cedaredge on Thursday to advance to the District 5 tournament’s final four, Grand Valley saw its season came to an end with a 9-6 loss to Basalt on Saturday.
The Cardinals finished up their first season of varsity play with a 4-15 record.
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Grace Wesseling is an animal lover, a cheerleader of seven years and another soon-to-be graduate of Bridges High School, class of 2021.