Weld Central blanks host Rifle, 6-0
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
RIFLE, Colorado – Matt Begler’s coach called Weld Central’s baseball team “probably the best 30 seed” around.
Coach Troy Phillips and the Rifle Bears would probably agree.
With Begler pitching a gem on the mound – he struck out 12 and allowed just five hits in seven innings of shutout ball – No. 30 Weld Central pulled off quite the first-round upset in the 3A baseball playoffs, scoring a 6-0 win over the No. 3 Bears at Deerfield Park in Rifle.
“We knew we had it in us,” the senior right-hander said. “Overall, I think we did a good job against them.”
The Rebels jumped on Rifle starter Danny Bartels early, plating two unearned runs in the first inning.
Tom Vestal reached on an error to lead off the frame and Tyler Shaffer followed with a bloop single. None other than Begler drove the first run home with a double down the third-base line. Cord Dunham brought in the second run with a groundout.
“We just didn’t come ready that first inning,” Phillips said. “We got down right away and Danny’s arm, for whatever reason, just couldn’t go today. His elbow was bothering him.”
Having already lost pitcher Hunter Finger to an elbow injury earlier in the season, Phillips played it safe and pulled Bartels in the midst of Weld Central’s four-run third inning.
That frame featured Begler’s second of three doubles on the afternoon. Jordan Jones had a two-run single and Cole Lechman plated a run with a base hit. Lechman later scored on a wild pitch.
With a big cushion, Begler continued to deal on the mound, suppressing the Bears’ patience-rooted attack by pounding the strike zone.
“We just couldn’t get much going on that pitcher,” said Phillips, whose team makes its living getting on base and pestering the defense with aggressive baserunning. “Their catcher was impossible to run on, too. We couldn’t play our normal game against this team.”
Of Rifle’s five hits, Triston Quigley had two. Bailey Hoffmeister, Danny Bartels and Jacob Withee also had hits. All were singles.
Quigley turned in five innings of relief work on the mound, striking out four and allowing two earned runs.
Begler was 3 for 4 with an RBI to pace the Rebels, who went on to beat University, 6-3, in the afternoon’s District 7 title game. Kyle Woodward had two hits in four at-bats and Shaffer, Dunham, Lechman and Jones collected a hit apiece.
Finger, a senior who’s been sidelined with a torn ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) since an April 28 doubleheader against Gunnison, made a pinch-hit appearance in the seventh inning.
“It was nice to hit one last time before I go,” said Finger, who’s scheduled to have Tommy John surgery on Friday.
Finger’s leaving behind a team he feels will remain highly competitive in its return to Class 4A next season.
“I think we grew a lot as a team,” he said. “We have a lot of younger guys. They should come back really strong next year and get better and be strong in 4A.”
Rifle wrapped up its season with a 17-3 overall record.
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Down 14-7 with less than 11 minutes left in regulation, Rifle head coach Todd Casebier decided it was time to deviate from his ground-and-pound offense for a bit of an aerial attack.