Bulldogs’ big bats bite Bears
RIFLE — Troy Phillips’ statement about the Palisade High School baseball team on Saturday rang true in a lot of ways.
“Well,” the longtime Rifle baseball coach said, “they’re a lot better than we are right now.”
For sure, the Bulldogs showed at Cooper Field that they’re probably a lot better than a lot of teams in Class 4A this season. They opened the day with a 15-5, five-inning victory over the Bears in the first game, then torched Rifle’s pitching staff for 12 runs in the fifth inning of the second game en route to a 21-2 win.
“Where each of their individual athletes are is a place where I’d like for us to be,” said Phillips, who is in his 20th year coaching the Bears. “The guys have to show that they’re willing to put in the time and the effort during the summer to get better to reach that level.”
To be sure, Palisade (15-2 overall, 12-0 4A WSL), which is right on the brink of cracking the Top 10 in the 4A CHSAAnow.com baseball poll, was playing at a different level than the much-younger Bears (8-8, 4-7 league). The big hitter of the day for the Bulldogs was catcher Andrew Bowles, who followed his 2-for-3, two-RBI performance in the opener by going 3 for 4 with four runs scored, a double, seven RBIs and two home runs. His biggest blast of the day came as part of the Bulldogs’ 12-run frame when he hit a grand slam over the Cooper Field left-field fence that landed near the softball field across the street at Deerfield Park.
The Bears couldn’t keep up, and Phillips pointed to the mental mistakes the Bears made in the field and the effort Palisade apparently has made during the offseason as some of the reason for the score discrepancy.
“I’ve told these guys after games several times this year that we only had four or five guys who did stuff in the weight room over the summer,” Phillips said. “We only had about half of these guys who were playing summer baseball all last summer, and it’s really hurting us right now because they’re so far behind in their development compared to where they could have been by now.
“There would have been a big difference if they would have put in the time during the summer,” he continued. “And I’ll guarantee you that if you look over on that side of the field that those guys probably did put that time in to get better.”
Then again, it’s not like the Bears were completely void of good performances. Takoda Chaney finished 2-for-3 batting in the second game, and Bryer Rew hit a solo home run off Palisade starting pitcher John Taber in the bottom of the fourth inning.
The Bears put up a fight early in the first game, too. Layton Stutsman finished 2-for-3 batting with two RBIs and his two-run single in the bottom of the fourth inning capped a four-run inning for the Bears that pulled them within 6-5. Palisade, however, wouldn’t let Rifle get any closer, adding three more runs in the top of the third thanks in part to an RBI double from Luis Arevalo — his second RBI double of the game — that helped pave way to the Bulldogs’ first mercy rule win.
In the second game, Rifle responded to an RBI single from Matt Seriani with a run in the bottom of the first inning when Ty Leyba, who reached on an error to lead off the inning, scored when a throw from Bowles trying to catch Chaney stealing from first went off the glove of shortstop Easton Woods, allowing Leyba to score. The Bears, however, weren’t able to score again until Rew’s solo shot, which cut the Bears deficit to 9-2 in the bottom of the fourth inning.
Rifle continues league play Tuesday at Glenwood Springs. Palisade, which secured the outright league championship with the sweep, is off until May 2 when it plays at Glenwood Springs.
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