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Bears back on base

GYPSUM – Twenty-four hours was all Rifle and its pitcher, Uriel Quezada, needed.A day after the Bears fell, 16-6, to Glenwood Springs – during which Quezada was unable to retire any of the four batters he faced – Rifle turned the table on Eagle Valley Thursday, handing the Devils, 10-2.One day after a rough outing, Quezada went the distance striking out seven, scattering just five hits and helping his own case with a sixth-inning homer.”It was really important,” Rifle skipper Troy Phillips said. “This team needs some confidence. We’ve got a lot of guys who haven’t played varsity ball, haven’t had a lot of experience, and we struggled (Wednesday) in a lot of respects. Today, we struggled for a little while, but we started hitting the ball in the fourth or fifth inning and hit the ball pretty hard.”For (Quezada), that was really important, too. (Wednesday) we pitched him, and he came in for four batters and didn’t get anybody out. He started out walking some guys, but he adjusted and pitched a great game for us.”After losing three preseason games to weather last weekend, it was Eagle Valley’s first outing of the season – and the Devils showed some understandable early-season jitters.”Our defense played well,” Eagle Valley manager Ralph Carlson said. “It’s a tough way to start off the (Western Slope) League season. We didn’t have any preseason. This was the first game of the year. Their guy threw a good game and we could not score enough runs.”Fateful fifthQuezada struggled with his command early, walking three in the first two innings. Eagle Valley cashed in on his first free pass in the first inning when Cody Comerford stole second and eventually scored on a sacrifice grounder by Nick Whitehead for a 1-0 lead.Eagle Valley starter Hunter Blevins was sharp in his first two innings, punching out four. Rifle touched the sophomore for two in the third inning when shortstop Eli Snead doubled home Tyler Gose and Andrew Schmidt. Zach Whitmore put the Bears up, 3-2, with a homer to right-center field in the fourth.Blevins lost his control in the top of the fifth, hitting Schmidt and Bryce Enewold to start the frame – and was done for the day.”Hunter threw a good game,” Carlson said “He threw (4 1/3) innings and then he just lost a little bit of control. The problem wasn’t that he lost control, but that his pitch count was getting too high this early in the season. He’s a sophomore, and he’s going to be a good pitcher.”The Devils’ Alex Dorothy moved from third to the mound, but could not put out the fire. He walked in a run with the bases loaded and then Rifle got two clutch two-run singles from Charlie Anderson and Gose to make it 8-1.”Those ended up being two big ones,” Philips said. “Even though they weren’t hit hard, they found the spots and were from guys lower in the lineup, so that really helped us out.”Quezada cruisesThat was more than enough for Quezada. He dealt 1-2-3 innings in the third and the fourth and was on his way to a 117-pitch complete game.”I think the difference was (Wednesday) I couldn’t throw strikes,” he said. “Today, the main thing was to throw first-pitch strikes and just work from there, try to work fast.”The Devils threatened a little in the bottom of the fifth with a Comerford double, which eventually scored Blevins.In the top of the sixth, Quezada did himself a favor with a two-run shot to left.”I was just waiting for a fast ball,” he said. “I hadn’t hit (this year). I just sat on the fast ball, and I just got the opportunity.”Rifle (1-1 in the WSL) heads to Montrose for a twinbill today at 4 p.m.


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