Bears top Pueblo Central, fall in Regional final
The Rifle Bears know how to turn the tables, at least in baseball.
After falling to Pueblo Central one year ago in the 4A state baseball playoffs, the Bears turned the finish around on Friday with a 5-1 elimination victory over the Wildcats in the first game of the 4A Regionals at Englewood High School.
Advancing to the elite eight of 4A baseball, the Bears then tested the No. 1 team in the state in the Regional final.
Centaurus High School of Lafayette halted Rifle’s bid to reach the state semifinals with a 10-3 victory later Friday afternoon at history Harry Wise Field.
Coach Troy Phillips’ Bears ended the season with the Western Slope League championship, the District Tournament championship, two games in the state playoffs and a 19-4 overall record.
Centaurus (23-1) will take on Longmont Skyline (19-5) in one 4A state semifinal this Friday. Pueblo County (21-2) will play Loveland Mountain View (22-2) in the other semifinal.
Cheered by a large and enthusiastic crowd that traveled from the Rifle area to Denver, the Bears charged into the Regional championship behind the two-hit pitching of junior Jason Enewold.
He silenced the heretofore noisy Pueblo Central bats with a dominating performance and 11 strikeouts in the seven-inning game.
Enewold, who always pitches from the stretch, held the Wildcats hitless until the bottom of the fifth inning.
Pueblo Central eventually settled for a lone single and an RBI-double by Chris Brown in the bottom of the seventh.
The Bears, meanwhile, pounded out 11 hits including three for extra bases and three bunt base hits.
Jesse Holgate walked to open the third inning for Rifle. He advanced on a single to deep right by Owen Madison.
Both runners moved up on Josh May’s perfect bunt base hit that loaded the bases.
Nick Krick’s bloop single scored Holgate with Rifle’s first run. Madison then scored on a balk by Pueblo Central starter Adam Navarette.
The Bears scored again in the fourth, this time on a double steal. Enewold started the rally with a one-out rocket single down the left-field line.
Holgate’s bunt base hit moved Enewold all the way to third.
Holgate then stole second, drawing the throw from the Pueblo Central catcher. And Enewold broke from third, stealing home and beating the return throw to the plate for a 3-0 Rifle lead.
The Bears added two more pressure-relieving runs in the top of the seventh on an RBI-single by Danny Fedirko and a sacrifice fly by Blake Barth.
Enewold, who struck out five of the first six batters he faced, ended the game with his 11th strikeout in the complete-game victory.
In the Regional final, Centaurus’ Nick Gaudagnoli slowed down the Rifle offense and limited the Bears to five hits in the 10-3 win.
Gaudagnoli, a lefty, improved to 8-0 for the No. 1 Centaurus Warriors.
They staked him to a 2-0 lead in the first inning and then added four more runs in the third.
Rifle touched Gaudagnoli for a single run in the second and two more in the third. But from there, he shut out the Bears.
Rifle’s hits included two singles by Barth, a single by Madison and doubles by Madison and Holgate.
In spite of Rifle’s championship loss, the Bears picked up a bushel of respect – particularly from Pueblo Central coach Ken Ramos, whose Wildcats lost to Rifle in Friday’s opener.
“Lots of times, the teams from the Western Slope don’t get the respect they deserve,” Ramos said, adding that this year’s Rifle team deserves plenty of respect.
“Last year we beat them; this year they evened the score,” Ramos said, crediting the overpowering pitching of Enewold.
“He (Enewold) is just as good as the best pitchers in our league,” Ramos added.
“He’s every bit as good. His velocity was right there and we couldn’t catch up to him,” the Pueblo Central coach said.
“We hung around, though … usually you can give up five runs and still win.
“But to his credit, he (Enewold) shut us down.”
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