Bears rally for late win
RIFLE – To win, sometimes a coach has to take a risk.
Down two runs with six outs left to play in Thursday’s game against Eagle Valley, Rifle High girls softball coach Troy Phillips had to force the issue.
In the final two innings of the nonleague contest with the Devils, Phillips told the Bears to run. And the ploy worked.
Well-timed stolen bases by Amber Massey and Lindsey McCue-Locke aided Rifle to a 3-2 come-from-behind victory. McCue-Locke scored the winning run from third base in the bottom of the seventh inning on a wild pitch.
“I just had to take a chance,” said Phillips. “If they catch it and tag her out, it was going to look like a stupid call. But it worked out for us.”
The winning run, after the Bears pulled to a 2-all tie in the sixth, was generated by McCue-Locke’s alert base running.
The senior catcher reached base on a Devil throwing error, a steal of second base and a bases-loaded wild pitch by Eagle Valley pitcher Sakaly Berger after two straight walks.
“Had to take a chance”
Aggressive base running worked out for the Bears in the sixth as well.
Kari Wiig’s lead-off double, followed by Massey’s base hit, gave the Bears the opportunity. Phillips sent Massey, and with a runner on third, Eagle Valley catcher Suzy Moore got flustered.
Her rushed, errant throw to second on Massey’s attempted steal flew into the outfield, allowing both Rifle runners to score.
“I had to take a chance at that point because we didn’t score any runs,” said Phillips.
The coach said his hand was forced because of the team’s inability to bunt a base runner into scoring position. Three times, Rifle failed to bunt a base runner into scoring position, nipping all potential rallies in the bud.
“It was critical to do something at that point,” said Phillips. “Luckily it went our way.”
“Could have gone either way”
“I guess it was payback,” said Eagle Valley coach Brad Stiles, referring to last week’s comeback 9-8 win by the Devils against Rifle in the Summit Tournament.
Luck seemed tilted toward Eagle Valley in the early innings.
Moore’s bat gave the Devils a 2-0 lead. Her two-out single, combined with Rifle outfield Sharee Gorham’s error, brought base runners Morgan Straklein and Sarah Wood home.
Eagle Valley’s luck ran out the following inning.
In the third, the Devils were a few inches away from making it a 3-run lead.
But base runner Jessica Jagger, trying to extend a triple to an inside-the-park home run, was called out at the plate, thanks to Sarah Ramsey’s unwillingness to quit.
Retreating back for Jagger’s ball, Ramsey, the Bear left fielder fired a strike to Massey, who had maneuvered to short left field for the relay throw. Massey in turn ripped a perfect throw to a waiting McCue-Locke at home, who finished the play by tagging a shocked Jagger just before she crossed the plate.
“The game could have been over if we had not made that play,” said Phillips.
“I sent Jagger,” Stiles said. “Was she out? She was called out. It was a close play and it could have gone either way.”
The defensive play seemed to energized Rifle pitcher Trisha Wailes.
In the last four innings of the game, Wailes allowed only three Eagle Valley base runners, all in separate innings.
The win moves Rifle’s record to 4-4 heading into home games against Douglas County at 4 p.m. on Friday and Saturday afternoon’s doubleheader games, at 2 and 4 p.m., with Montezuma-Cortez.
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