Bears stumble at districts |

Bears stumble at districts

Post Independent Writer

Staff Report

NIWOT – It’s rare that a Rifle baseball team has a major defensive lapse, but one cropped up in Saturday’s Class 4A District Playoff game.

Pueblo Centennial scored nine unearned runs to end the Bears season with a 14-4 victory.

“Defensively we made a lot of mistakes,” said Rifle coach Troy Phillips of the team’s six errors. “I think (the Rifle players) were just a little overly nervous and there were some simple routine plays we didn’t make.

“They made the difficult plays and we didn’t, and that was the difference.”

Rifle trailed 5-4 midway through the fifth inning, a frame that represented the game in a nutshell for Rifle. After plating three runs, the Bears had the bases loaded with no outs. Thanks to a pair of hit-saving plays by the Bulldogs infield, and a double play to end the inning, Rifle scored just one more run in the stanza.

“We scored four runs and could easily have scored eight or nine if not for some excellent plays by their infielders,” Phillips said.

“I can’t really fault the guys for the way they hit the ball,” he added. “We hit the ball really hard, but it was either right at somebody or a guy makes a diving stop. Two hits doesn’t look good, but they hit the ball extremely hard for just two hits.”

Brandon Leuallen and Matt Jones were the only Bears to register hits in the contest.

In the bottom of the fifth inning the Bulldogs scored three runs, including their first earned run of the game, to take an 8-4 edge and put the game away with a six-run sixth for a mercy-rule victory.

Shane Fazzi pitched five innings and change while allowing 13 runs, only four of which were earned.

Fazzi finished a solid senior season with a 7-2 pitching mark, while the Bears end the season with a record of 11-4. Fazzi is one of just two seniors the squad will lose next season. Center-fielder Kip Jessup is the other.

The growth of the team this season, which included an 11-game win streak that ended Saturday, along with seven returning starters, bodes well for next year.

“I was quite pleased (with the season),” Phillips said. “We turned around after a 2-4 start and won 11 straight games. It’s encouraging when you look forward to next year.

“I’m just really proud of how well these guys played through the course of the year.”

– In Class 3A Western Slope League District Tournament action, the Roaring Fork Rams rolled to an 18-6 victory over Olathe in the semifinal round Friday in Paonia, but couldn’t get by Hotchkiss in the title game. Hotchkiss downed the Rams 11-4. The second-place district finish qualifies Roaring Fork for the regional round. Seedings are expected to be released later this week.

No other information was available.

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