Bears rout Bulldogs behind a balanced offensive output
For the second game in a row, the Rifle Bears’ softball team run-ruled a 4A Western Slope League team, putting the Bears firmly in control of the league after topping the rival Palisade Bulldogs 14-0 Tuesday evening at Taugenbaugh Field in Rifle.
Top to bottom, the Bears’ lineup contributed to the rout, led by junior second baseman and nine-hitter Delaney Phillips, who recorded four runs batted in on the night, including the first run of the game in the bottom of the second inning, showing bunt before pulling the bat back to slap an RBI single up the middle, igniting the Bears offensively.
Along with Phillips, senior pitcher Kaitlyn Jackson drove in three runs, hitting a towering solo home run to left in the bottom of the third, while senior third baseman Shaeley Arneson added two RBIs with a two-run single to center in the bottom of the third, in which Rifle pushed eight runs across the plate, putting the game away quickly.
“Palisade’s pitchers did a really good job today of throwing strikes, but I really felt good about our hitting,” said Troy Phillips, Rifle’s veteran head coach. “We hit balls hard; even our outs were hit hard. Some players came through in clutch situations for us today against a Palisade team that I think is really good. I was worried about this game coming in, but fortunately things went our way today.
“I’m sure when we play Palisade again, it will be a much different game because they’re a quality team, and have a quality coaching staff.”
Tuesday’s offensive outburst started in the bottom of the second inning as Arneson led off the frame with a walk before advancing to second on a groundout by junior Hannah Bodrogi, pushing Arneson into scoring position.
That’s when Phillips stepped into the box and showed bunt. As Palisade defenders charged in to play the bunt, Phillips pulled her bat back and slapped an RBI single up the middle, driving in Arneson from second base to give the Bears a 1-0 lead.
“We tried the slash today, and she executed,” Phillips said. “It was a good day for her.”
Following Phillips’ RBI single, senior Suzie Brixie singled to left, putting runners on first and second, leading to sophomore Abigail Bonuales’ RBI single to center, giving the Bears a 2-0 lead after two innings of play.
With the lead, Rifle slammed the door as Jackson dominated on the mound, retiring Palisade in order in the top of the third to send the Bears back to the plate.
Senior Kaitlyn Harris led off the top of the third with a double to left before racing all the way home on a throwing error from the cutoff man to second base, pushing Rifle’s lead to 3-0. Jackson followed with her solo home run to left to make it 4-0, before Arneson tripled down the left-field line. Senior Zoe Loya followed Arneson by reaching on an error on the Palisade third baseman, allowing Arneson to trot home from third to make it a 5-0 game.
Two batters later, Phillips slashed a two-run triple to left-center off the fence, driving in Loya and Bodrogi for a 7-0 lead. Brixie followed with a single to left for an 8-0 lead before being picked off of first base. Three consecutive walks to Rifle hitters loaded the bases for Arneson, who lashed a two-run single to center for a 10-0 lead, capping off the offensive outburst in the third inning.
Jackson again made quick work of the Bulldogs in the fourth, getting Rifle back on offense quickly.
Rifle continued to take advantage, as Phillips lined an RBI single to right-center for an 11-0 lead and her fourth RBI of the day, while senior Amanda Green singled to center later in the inning, driving in Phillips to make it 12-0. Following an infield single by Harris, Jackson stepped to the plate and drove a two-run single into center for the 14-0 lead.
Jackson took the mound for the top of the fifth and promptly retired the Bulldogs for the night on three straight groundouts. By picking up the complete-game shutout win, Jackson has yet to allow an earned run on the season, and improves to 4-0.
“I love the way she pitches; she challenges every hitter,” Phillips said. “She very rarely walks hitters too. Offensively, she’s made some adjustments from a year ago that has allowed her to get into an athletic stance, and she’s just very tough to get out right now.”
With the win, Rifle improves to 4-0 on the year. The Bears will make a tough trip to Delta Thursday afternoon for a league game against the Panthers.