Bears top Sailors in doubleheader
RIFLE – Just when it looked like the breaks were swinging in Steamboat Springs’ favor, Rifle wrestled back the momentum.Kyle Bond went opposite field with a go-ahead single in the top of the ninth inning and first baseman Ernesto Mendoza chased down a fly ball in foul ground to end the game, helping the Bears to a 5-4 nightcap win and sweep of the Sailors in a baseball doubleheader at Rifle on Saturday.Steamboat struck for a three-run rally just two innings earlier to send the game into extra frames tied at 4.”We battled back,” said Sailors coach Dave Roy, whose team was also fighting back from a 10-2 loss in the opener. “I give all the credit to those guys. We made some mistakes and they hurt us early, but we hung in there.”Clearly, the majority of the day’s drama rested in the second game, though it appeared early that Rifle would run away with that one as well.The Bears churned out two runs on two hits and a Steamboat error in the first to take an early lead. Zach Whitmore, who earned the win on the mound in the first game, tripled home Asa Fix in the top of the first to get things started and crossed home plate himself on a passed ball two at-bats later.
The Sailors, the home team on the scoreboard in the nightcap, manufactured a run in the bottom of the third inning. Elliot Girard reached base on a walk, stole second, moved to third on a passed ball and then scored on a ground ball single by Brian Aragon to make it 2-1.Rifle added insurance runs in the fourth and the seventh, the latter coming courtesy of a Mendoza RBI single.And the stage was set for a wild end to regulation.Steamboat’s seventh-inning rally, by no means pretty, started with a leadoff double from Philip Riley and an RBI single by Aaron Hornsteen. Colin Boyle then reached by error, followed by a sacrifice bunt by Girard and a run-scoring groundout by Aragon.It all came down to an at-bat by Taylor Anderson, who rolled a 2-2 pitch up the middle with Boyle on third base. Whitmore, playing shortstop, gloved the ball and fired to first in time, but Mendoza had to pull his foot off the bag to pick the one-hop throw. Tie ball game.The rally chased Bond – Rifle’s starting pitcher – from the game at inning’s end. The right-hander allowed six hits and two earned runs while striking out six in seven innings of work.”It was a clutch pitching performance, but we just didn’t play defense behind him,” Bears coach Troy Phillips said.
Fix (1-0) pitched the final two frames for the win, keeping the Sailors off the board the rest of the way. Mendoza doubled to start the ninth and scored on Bond’s sliced single to right field before tracking down a high fly in foul ground on defense to end the game in the bottom of the inning. Gusty wind made playing the field an adventure.”I was just trying to get under it the best I could and get the out,” said Mendoza, who was 4-for-6 with four RBIs in the doubleheader.The junior said his team never panicked, despite blowing the seventh-inning lead.”The team was pretty positive,” Mendoza recalled. “We made a couple mistakes, but everyone helps out each other. We swung the bat good and came through in the clutch.”Phillips will take the close game, which pushed his team’s record to 7-1 overall and to 4-0 in the Class 4A Western Slope League.
“We showed some character,” he said. “We had the ability, after giving up three runs and losing the momentum, to win this game.”Michael Lyon, Aragon and Alex Wood finished with two hits apiece for Steamboat (1-8, 0-4) in the twin bill. Taylor Anderson pitched five solid innings in relief in the nightcap, spelling starter Skylar Mitchell and holding the Bears to two runs.Whitmore dominates openerWhitmore turned in an all-out dominant performance in Saturday’s opener. The righty struck out 10 and limited the Sailors to just two runs – one earned – on three hits to improve to 4-0 on the season.Fix and Kory Kassak did plenty of damage on offense for the Bears in the 10-2 win, with Fix collecting three hits – including a double – and three RBIs and Kassak driving in two runs on two hits.Back-to-back three-run innings in the fourth and fifth iced the win for Rifle.
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