Bears’ tires go flat in season opener
Post Independent Staff
RIFLE ” It was the first game of the season ” and the play of Rifle and Douglas County bore that out. In the span of two hours and 26 minutes, the teams committed nine errors, received 17 walks and left 14 runners on base.
Yet there were enough good performances from the Bears in Friday’s 17-13 defeat that head coach Cindy Skinner left the diamond with a smile on her face.
“I thought we did really well swinging the bats tonight,” the coach said. “We scored 13 runs on that team. And we didn’t let up. We were down 16-7 and they came back to within three runs of the lead against a Class 5A team ” I think they did really well to do that.”
The Bears rapped out nine hits, five for extra bases against winning pitcher Kelly Fisher. They also displayed some pop at the top of the lineup. The Nos. 1-4 hitters produced eight of the team’s hits with an equal amount of runs scored.
Kendall Babler, making her first softball appearance in two years, started rallies that gave Rifle a 5-1, then a 7-3 lead on lead-off triples in the first and second innings. As part of her debut, the junior scored three runs, stole a base and played errorless ball at third base.
“Kendall did really well. She’s worked hard and is a very gifted athlete,” Cindy Skinner said. “We’re really glad to have her back because she knows the game and is making the effort to be part of the game. She showed that when she hit and in the field.”
Up by four, heading into the third, the wheels came off. Ahead 7-3, the Bears gave up 10 runs in the third inning. After two good innings of work, Rifle’s defense and starter Alissa Skinner’s control became erratic.
Center fielder Jessica Martinez’s three-base error on Jenna Johns’ fly ball allowed a run to score. A combination of three Douglas County singles and an equal amount of walks forced coach Skinner to pull her daughter from the mound.
Cindy Skinner attributed the bad rash of play to first-game jitters.
“We started pretty strong and the wheels definitely got flat,” the coach said of the team’s spate of poor play. “Alissa was struggling. She lost her mental focus from what she wanted to do. She was pretty frustrated (at that point).”
Later on the Bears starter redeemed herself when Megan McWilliams tired after two innings of relief. Taking over in the fifth, Alissa Skinner allowed just two hits and an earned run (all in the seventh) after walking seven and six hits in two and one-third innings of work earlier.
“I think (Alissa) learned something today. She was pretty frustrated, but she wasn’t allowed to give up and she came back real strong,” the coach said.
Rifle’s offense also came back with a roar in the late innings.
Trailing by nine in the fourth, the Bears got a two-run triple from Marissa Wilkins in their half of the inning, then punched over another run in the sixth.
In their final at bats in the seventh inning, Rifle fashioned a three-run rally from a Fisher walk, an infield error and singles by Martinez and Chelsea Webb.
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Down 14-7 with less than 11 minutes left in regulation, Rifle head coach Todd Casebier decided it was time to deviate from his ground-and-pound offense for a bit of an aerial attack.