Bears sweep Bulldogs in key 4A double header
In a key 4A Western Slope League softball double header at Taughenbaugh Field Thursday in Rifle, the Rifle Bears’ softball team picked up the sweep of the visiting Palisade Bulldogs by scores of 11-2 and 6-4 behind two key pitching performances from sophomore Kaitlyn Jackson and a towering Game 2 three-run home run from Peyton Caldwell to cap off the sweep.
In Game 1 against the Bulldogs, the Bears used their speed on the base paths to force the Bulldogs into some errors, leading to two four-run innings and a three-run inning by Rifle leading to the 11-2 win.
Despite the eight-run win, Jackson had to work out of a few jams early on for the Bears, allowing the offense to pick her up.
In the top of the first inning Palisade’s Haley Carver tripled down the left field line with one out, putting a runner in scoring position early for the Bulldogs, but Jackson was tough on the mound and got two straight groundouts to the left side of the infield to Shaeley Arneson and Peyton Caldwell to get out of the inning.
Behind the big momentum swing for the Bears, Rifle quickly scored four runs in the bottom of the first as Delaney Phillips dropped down a bunt single and then stole second base before Kaitlyn Harris followed two batters later with a two-run single. The Bears would add two more runs to take a 4-0 lead after one inning.
Palisade would score its first run of the game in the top of the third inning before adding a second run in the top of the fifth inning to make it 4-2 Rifle heading into the bottom of the fifth.
The Bears answered promptly with another four runs as Harris and Hannah Bodrogi reached on errors before later scoring on a bloop single to right field by Alexys Holder and a groundout from Sydney Scarrow. Alondra Zepada and Amanda Green also reached on errors, allowing Rifle to add two more runs to make it 8-2 through five innings.
By using their speed on the base paths the Bears were able to force Palisade into mistakes in similar fashion to their previous meetings.
“We’ve done a lot of that on quite a few teams this year due to our speed,” Rifle Head Coach Troy Phillips said. “Palisade is a pretty young team, so we were able to take advantage of mistakes early. We tried to see what was there this time around, but they’ve improved a lot since the last time we saw them.”
With a big lead, Rifle was able to ease off the gas a bit on the base paths before Jackson came through with a two-run double down the left field line in the bottom of the sixth inning to drive in Caldwell and Harris. Kristen Fulton tacked on the final run of the game for the Bears with a sacrifice fly to drive in Jackson.
Looking to build off of the Game 1 win over the Bulldogs, the Bears took the field for Game 2 looking to stretch their 4A WSL lead over Palisade. Jackson again took the mound for the Bears, but this time around she fell behind 3-0 early due to some big hits from the Bulldogs as Emmaley Gray and Meghan Foster hit back-to-back doubles, while Alexy Hartman then singled and advance to second on the throw home, giving the Bulldogs a 2-0 lead.
Carver then followed up with a double to score Hartman, making it 3-0 Palisade before Jackson could get out of the inning.
Trailing 3-0 the Bears went to work in the bottom of the second inning as Arneson led off with a booming double to left field before Jackson followed up with an infield single to put runners on the corners with no outs. Two batters later Zepada drove in Arneson on a groundout to the second baseman before an error on the Palisade catcher allowed Jackson to race home with the second run of the game for the Bears.
Jackson continued to get outs quickly for the Bears, allowing Rifle to get back on offense and try and take the lead, but it took until the bottom of the fifth inning for the Bears to make anything happen at the plate.
Fortunately for Rifle, patience was a virtue as the Bears exploded for three runs in the bottom of the fifth inning thanks to Caldwell’s towering three-run home run to left-center field to give the Bears a 5-3 lead late in the game. Green started the rally by drawing a two-out walk. Delaney Phillips was then hit by a pitch, setting up Caldwell’s heroics.
“It’s been something that’s happened all year for us,” Troy Phillips said. “We’ve had some great two-out performances; it’s our goal to score as often as we can because we don’t know how long that opportunity will last, and this year in every game one of our team goals is to score runs with two outs. We’ve been shooting for that all year, and tonight’s two-out performance by Peyton was big for us.”
Holding a 5-3 lead heading into the late frames, Jackson had to buckle down on the mound in a big spot in the top of the sixth inning, where she seemed to lose control for a bit before finding herself to slam the door shut. In the top of the sixth inning Jackson hit the leadoff hitter before an error in the field and a walk loaded the bases for the Bulldogs. After a mound visit, Jackson then plunked Carver to force home a Palisade run to make it 5-4 Rifle, but that would be all for the Bulldogs as Jackson bounced right back to strike out Eimy Aguirre swinging.
The Bears would tack on an insurance run in the bottom of the sixth on an RBI double by Holder to drive in Arneson for the final run before Jackson closed the door in the top of the seventh to seal the sweep.
With the win, Rifle improves to an outstanding 12-3 (6-0 4A WSL) on the year with sole possession of first place in the league. The Bears will have off until next Thursday when they travel to Eagle Valley for a double header.
TITANS SWEEP RAMS
The Coal Ridge Titans’ volleyball team made the trip to visit the Roaring Fork Rams Thursday in Carbondale and came away with a three-game sweep by scores of 25-20, 25-11 and 25-19 to improve to 4-1 (2-0 3A Western Slope League) on the year.
For the Titans, Nicole Mooney led the way with 12 kills, eight digs and four aces, while Dana Kotz had 28 assists, four aces and three kills.
Kaitlyn Harlow added seven kills, while Cassie Greene had six kills. Kara Morgan added five kills and two aces. Santana Martinez and Cheyenne Williams added eight digs each.
Roaring Fork didn’t have individual stats to report, but Head Coach Donna Batcher said she was pleased with the way the young Rams battled against one of the top teams in the state.
“We are proud of them,” Batcher said. “We hope to beat them the next time we face them, but our MVP was Corey Johnson tonight. She was fantastic with serving, passing and attacking on the ball.”
With the loss, Roaring Fork falls to 6-5 (3-2 3A WSL) on the season.
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