Bears outlast Titans in sloppy non league affair
Returning to action for the first time since Spring Break, the Rifle Bears (4-2, 2-0) looked out of sorts defensively in an error-filled nonleague matchup with the Coal Ridge Titans (0-2, 0-0). But fortunately for the veteran Bears, they were able to outlast the young Titans, 15-9, in New Castle on Wednesday afternoon.
Playing their second straight home game in back-to-back days to open the regular season, Coal Ridge briefly held a 6-5 lead over the Bears, but some defensive struggles allowed the Bears to eventually pull away for the win in a game that lasted nearly three hours.
“I liked the way we battled with them today,” Coal Ridge Head Coach Dan Larsen said. “I wasn’t even really upset with the loss, considering the way the boys responded from a bad loss the day before. We made some errors today that cost us, and we still have some early-season jitters with the young guys, but that happens with a young team. I’m just proud of the guys for competing today.”
Early on it looked like Rifle would run away and hide against Coal Ridge as the Bears took an early 2-0 lead in the top of the first inning as senior James Magnuson led off the game with a hit by pitch to put a runner on first. Senior Gabe Marbas then hit into a 6-4 fielder’s choice for the first out of the inning before senior Takoda Chaney ripped an RBI triple into left-center field for the first run of the game off of Coal Ridge senior Tyler Sloan.
One batter later, Rifle senior Bryer Rew would line an RBI single into left field to make it 2-0, but freshman Derek Wagler would then ground into a 6-3 double play to end the inning with the Bears holding a 2-0 lead.
In the bottom of the first inning, Coal Ridge junior Jake Whitaker would lead off with an infield single right in no-man’s land between first base and the pitcher’s mound to give the Titans early life.
Freshman Jared Whitaker then followed with a sacrifice bunt to move Jake Whitaker into scoring position with one out to bring Sloan to the plate.
The Coal Ridge senior then lined a single into center field before then advancing to second on the throw home to put runners at second and third with just one out in the inning.
Senior Jackson Sargent then came through in the clutch for the Titans, lining an RBI single into center to score Jake Whitaker to pull the Titans to within one, 2-1.
With runners at first and third with just one out, the Titans looked to take on more runs. But a suicide squeeze by senior Ty Huck failed as the senior was thrown out at first before Sloan was nabbed at home to complete the 1-3-2 double play by the Bears to get out of the inning.
Following the big play in the field by Rifle, the Bears came to the plate in the top of the second inning and proceeded to tack on three runs as senior Drake Montgomery led off the frame with a towering double to right that hit the base of the wall, putting a runner in scoring position with no outs.
Senior Blaine Vance then reached base on a bunt single before moving up to second on a wild throw to put runners at second and third with no outs, signaling a possible big inning for Rifle.
Junior Connor Gould would follow Vance’s bunt with a line drive right at the Coal Ridge second baseman, but he was unable to squeeze the liner, allowing the ball to squirt into the outfield and sending Montgomery home from third to make it 3-1 Rifle.
Looking to build on the lead, Rifle sophomore Eddie Medina then hit a bloop single into shallow right to drive in Vance to make it 4-1 before Magnuson drew a walk to load the bases with no outs in the inning.
Marbas would again ground into a 6-4 fielder’s choice, but fortunately for the senior he was able to drive in Gould to make it 5-1. From there, Chaney would get hit by a pitch to load the bases again, but an infield flyout by Rew and a 4-6 groundout by Wagler ended the Rifle threat with the Bears holding a 5-1 lead heading into the bottom of the second inning.
Coal Ridge would battle right back again in the second inning as freshman Jared Lund would double to left-center before being driven in by fellow freshman Sean Mooney to make it 5-2. But a 4-6 groundout by Jake Whitaker ended the inning for the Titans.
In the top of the third inning Sloan would hold the Bears at bay, stranding Gould and Medina on first and second, setting up a big bottom of the third for the Titans.
Jared Whitaker would lead off the bottom of the third with a walk before Sloan would ground out to second. With Whitaker standing on second and just one out, Sargent would come through in the clutch again for the Titans, this time lining a single into right-center for his second RBI of the game to make it 5-3 Rifle.
“Jackson showed up today and was a little different,” Larsen said. “He was quiet and sort of standing off to the side, but he came alive in the game and played a great game. He had a couple of really good hits for us after battling back in the count, and he made a great running catch in right to save a run. I thought he played really well and that was encouraging to see.”
Three batters later, Lund would rip a triple into right-center to drive in Sargent and Huck to make it 5-5, sparking the home team.
“We were joking in the dugout that he had a mini cycle with a single, double and triple,” Larsen said. “He played great for us today. He had been struggling a bit, so we had a good talk and he really stepped up in a big way today.”
Following Lund’s second extra base hit of the game, senior Michael Harmon then roped a single into center to drive in Lund, giving the Titans a 6-5 lead after three innings of play.
Following Coal Ridge’s offensive outburst, it would be Rifle’s turn in the top of the fourth inning as the Bears erupted for six runs in the frame to take an 11-6 lead as Wagler picked up an RBI single and Montgomery drove in two runs of his own on an RBI single.
Montgomery would later score on a wild pitch to make it 9-6 before the Bears would tack on two more runs thanks to Coal Ridge errors.
Trailing 11-6, Coal Ridge would plate two runs in the bottom of the fourth inning as Jake Whitaker led off the inning with a walk before scoring all the way from first on a steal attempt thanks to two throwing errors by the Bears.
Sloan would later walk before then scoring on an RBI single by Huck to make it 11-8.
In the top of the fifth inning, Rifle would stretch the lead to 12-8 on an RBI single to left by Rew, but the Titans would again answer with a run of their own, this time on an RBI single by Jake Whitaker, driving in Lund to make it 12-9.
Rifle would then answer with three runs in the top of the sixth on a Coal Ridge error and a couple of walks after loading the bases, all but sealing the win.
Holding a 15-9 lead heading into the bottom of the sixth inning, Vance would get the first two outs of the inning before giving way to Chaney, who closed the door on the Titans and gave the Bears their fourth win of the season while dropping the Titans to 0-2.
The Bears will host the Summit Tigers on Saturday morning at Cooper Field for a doubleheader, while the Titans will host the Delta Panthers at 11 a.m. in New Castle.
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