Memorable outing: Austin Booth Memorial Wood Bat Tournament goes to Rifle for first time
Citizen Telegram Sports Editor
Thursday, June 6 Results
Fruita 11, Lakewood 6
Fruita 8, Palmer 6
Palmer 3, Summit County 2
Summit County 6, Palisade 3
Rifle 10, Eagle Valley 0
Friday, June 7 Results
Palmer 10, Palisade 2
Rifle 11, Eagle Valley 5
Fruita 8, Summit County 3
Rifle 2, Lakewood 1 (9 innings)
Saturday, June 8 Championship Game
Rifle 2, Fruita 0
Austin Booth never played an inning of varsity baseball for Rifle High School’s baseball team. It’s likely, however, that he would have been proud of how well Rifle’s summer baseball team played this past weekend.
Behind a stellar pitching performance from Teig Hauer, the Bears earned a 2-0 victory over Fruita in the championship game of the Austin Booth Memorial Wood Bat Tournament.
“We had some guys who hadn’t played much varsity baseball who really stepped up and made some plays in tough situations with two outs,” Rifle coach Troy Phillips said. “They weren’t great plays, but it’s easy to drop a ball in the outfield when you know something’s on the line and you don’t have a lot of experience.”
It was the first time since Phillips has coached the Bears that they’ve won their own eight-team tournament. Teams such as Class 5A Lakewood and Palmer were in it, along with Palisade, Summit and, of course, Fruita. Coal Ridge was originally scheduled to play in the tournament but didn’t participate, so Rifle played in each of their scheduled games.
Those teams came to play in a tournament that, until two years ago, was simply named the Rifle Wood Bat Tournament. It has since been renamed for Booth, a Rifle High School student who died of symptoms related to influenza in early January 2011.
Booth had planned on playing baseball for the Bears that spring prior to his passing. He did, however, join up with the summer baseball team when his family moved to Rifle in the summer of 2010.
“When he came to Rifle and came out to practice with us, he just clicked with everyone right away,” Phillips said. “We instantly invited him to come play baseball at a tournament in Idaho with us. That gave him a real chance to make a lot of friends and really bond with people instantly.”
That bonding stuck around through the summer baseball season, through football season and through the first part of basketball season, also. That alone was enough for the school to begin the Austin Booth Memorial Scholarship fund, which is in its fourth year. Proceeds from the tournament go toward funding the scholarship, and have come in increments of $100 in the inaugural year, $60 in the second year and $70 in the third.
“This year, I don’t think we made anything,” Phillips said, laughing. “Really, the main purpose of the tournament being named what it is was just to remember Austin and keep his memory alive.”
Summer performances hot
Some of the Bears have been having memorable performances on the baseball field this summer, some of which carried over from the stellar performances of the spring. Hauer, who pitched all nine innings of the Bears’ 2-1 win over Lakewood in the tournament semifinals, looks to be first in line to be the team’s ace next spring. This past season in the Bears’ 6-1 loss at Air Academy in the first round of the Class 4A state playoffs, Hauer pitched five scoreless innings of relief to give him the school’s single-season ERA record (1.09).
Triston Quigley, who graduated this past spring, is playing with the Bears this summer to stay in shape for what he hopes will be a baseball career past high school. Colorado Mesa University in Grand Junction took a look at him last week and, if that doesn’t work out, he plans on playing golf for Mesa.
Also contributing this summer, Phillips said, have been Angel Diaz and Morgan Robinson, the younger brother of Bears catcher and senior-to-be Wyatt Robinson. Morgan Robinson drove in Hauer with a walk-off single in the ninth inning of Rifle’s semifinal victory over Lakewood.
Each of them have given memorable performances so far, the coach said. And as far as the wood bat tournament is concerned, even though some memories fade and everyone who went to school with Booth will eventually graduate, Phillips won’t let the memory — or the name — of the tournament, change.
“As far as I know, it’ll stay there,” Phillips said. “And it will stay this way for as long as I’m here.”
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The Bears open their playoff run with a runaway 48-15 victory over the Englewood Pirates last Saturday at Bears Stadium