Rifle softball remains red-hot with 10-5 win over Cedaredge
For the Post Independent
The 2023 varsity girls softball season is well underway, and the Rifle Bears are off to a blazing start.
Rifle hosted the Cedaredge Bruins on Thursday night in the “Battle of the Bears.” The Bears tamed the Bruins, winning 10-5 thanks to an eight-run explosion in the first inning.
“We have a lot of kids that have been in the program a while,” Head coach Troy Phillips said about the Bears’ offense. “They work hard to make slight adjustments and have been hitting the ball hard this season.”
A rainy Thursday afternoon almost jeopardized the game, but the sun broke through the clouds right before the first pitch.
Freshman Bruins pitcher Tia Homedew had trouble finding the zone to start the game, walking the first four batters before swapping with junior Kerrie Meyer at first base.
Rifle didn’t care about the pitching change as they jumped all over Meyer for seven more runs. Seniors Brooklynn Millius and Brooklynn Dennis got the runners moving with RBI singles before a throwing error put the Bears up 5-0 with a runner on third and only one out in the first. The Bears reloaded the bases while hitting around the lineup, and senior Hadli Diaz drove them all in with another RBI single.
Senior starting pitcher Blakye Hostettler had all the support she needed as she blanked the Bruins through three innings of work.
Cedaredge wouldn’t go away without a fight, as they consistently had baserunners the whole game. They broke the goose egg by starting the top of the fourth with three straight singles to load the bases. Junior outfielder Delaney Signs opened the scoring for the Bruins with an RBI single, but that’s all Cedaredge could manage with the bases loaded.
The Bruins kept eating away in the top of the fifth with two doubles from Meyer and junior Jewel Laliberte, closing the gap to 8-5.
There was no scoring from either team until the bottom of the sixth, when Rifle got insurance from senior Zoe Hisel on a single and a Hostettler sac fly.
It was all Rifle would need as sophomore Olivia Gordon closed the game in the top of the seventh 10-5.
The Bears improve their record to 11-2, while the Bruins fall to 2-10.
After dropping the season’s first game in a tough-fought battle against the Grand Junction Tigers, the Bears clicked, winning the next eight straight.
They are outsourcing opponents 161-75 through their first 13 games. Their impressive offense has driven the team. They have scored less than 10 runs only five times and have had games where the result looked more like a football game than a softball.
Their incredible record has them sitting comfortably as one of the best teams in the state. The Bears, who are 2-0 in league play and easily lead the 4A Western Slope League, are ranked ninth in the state in the 4A class.
They are led by their senior catcher — Hisel. The career .360 hitter is making a name for herself in her final year in high school. In 50 plate appearances, Hisel has 21 hits for an unfathomable .538 batting average. She has knocked in 17 runs with eight doubles and a home run, pushing her OPS (on-base + slugging) to a ridiculous 1.421. She has the second-best batting average and the best on-base percentage (.600) in the WSL.
“She is having an incredible season, but picking one leader is hard,” said Phillips. “There is a different girl every game. Everyone is hitting really well right now.”
Hisel was 2 for 3 with two singles, a walk and an RBI.
She is one of eight seniors, as half the team will move on after this season comes to a close in early October.
“We have a couple of sophomores starting for us,” Phillips said. “Brynn [Axelton] was All-Conference as a freshman, Riley[Petree] Kathryn [Santana], and there are more. There are honestly too many to name.”
Rifle is seemingly playing with a vengeance, as impressive seasons in ’21 and ’22 propelled them into the playoffs, but the Bears got chased out of the postseason in their first two games both years.
“Our goal is to be as good as we can be by the end of the season and put ourselves into a situation where we can be competitive with those Eastern Slope teams,” said Phillips.
The Bears host the Eagle Valley Devils next, facing them twice Tuesday and Wednesday. It will be their third league game after beating the Palisade Bulldogs on Tuesday in a shootout 14-12.
“Tuesday night’s game was good evidence of [our offensive power],” Phillips said. “We scored six in the first, and everyone was hitting the ball hard.”
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