Defense, timely hitting leads Bears to big win over Rams
Three consecutive double plays in the first three innings and some timely hitting from senior Blaine Vance led the Rifle Bears to a 12-2 win Wednesday night over the Roaring Fork Rams in a nonleague matchup at Cooper Field in Rifle.
With senior Drake Montgomery on the mound to start the game for Rifle, the improving Bear defense behind him turned three double plays in the first three innings, shutting down a hot Roaring Fork attack early on and allowing the Bears to get the bats going at the plate.
“I haven’t seen three double plays turned in the first three innings,” Rifle Head Coach Troy Phillips said. “We’ve had three in a game before, but never the first three innings like that. They had one, too, so that was four in the first three innings, so there was some pretty good defense being played there in the beginning. I think it did set how we were going to play defensively the rest of the night, and I loved that Drake threw a bunch of first-pitch strikes and really trusted his defense today.”
Following a second straight 5-4-3 double play to end the Roaring Fork threat in the top of the second inning, Rifle scored three runs in the bottom of the frame as freshman Derek Wagler started the rally with a walk before swiping second base to get into scoring position.
Montgomery followed with a walk, putting runners on first and second with one out for Vance, who roped an RBI double off the fence in left-center to give the Bears a 1-0 lead.
Junior Connor Gould made it 2-0 with a sacrifice fly, driving in Montgomery from third before a Roaring Fork error allowed Vance to score, giving the Bears a 3-0 lead after two innings of play.
Junior Layne Crisp started the top of the third inning for the Rams with a sharp single to center field, but two batters later the Bears wiped out any threat with the third double play of the game.
“We’re really battling for every pitch and double plays happen,” Roaring Fork Head Coach Marty Madsen said. “Our approach stayed the same today despite the double plays, and I love that from this group.”
Looking to build off of the momentum from the defense, Rifle scored two more runs in the bottom of the third as Wagler ripped a two-run single to left, scoring sophomore Eddie Medina and senior Bryer Rew, giving the Bears a 5-0 lead after three innings of play.
Roaring Fork responded in the top of the fourth inning by loading the bases as junior Drew Broadhurst walked, while junior Dawson Kuhl and senior Hayden Bernot singled to load the bases with two outs, but a groundout to short ended yet another Rams threat.
After escaping another jam in the top half of the inning, Rifle went to work again in the bottom of the frame, scoring six runs to take an 11-0 lead as senior Gabe Marbas and Medina picked up RBI singles, and Rew and Wagler hit back-to-back RBI doubles, setting up Vance’s two-run single to cap off the six-run inning.
“He [Blaine] squared up some balls for us today,” Phillips said. “Probably his last six or seven games he’s been hitting a lot better. He struggled in the beginning of the year a little bit, but he’s been coming on really strong lately.”
Holding the 11-run lead and looking to close the door quickly, Rifle brought in senior Takoda Chaney in the top of the fifth inning with runners on first and second and nobody out.
A sacrifice bunt attempt by Roaring Fork junior Axel Palomera was mishandled by the Rifle defense, loading the bases for junior Ralph Good, who slapped a bouncing single into right to drive in two and made it 11-2 Rifle.
Needing to score one run to end the game on the 10-run rule, Chaney drove a one-out triple into left-center to put a runner in scoring position, setting up sophomore Randy Starks’ heroics with two outs.
On a 2-2 pitch, Starks lofted a fly ball into left-center that Roaring Fork senior Aldo Pinela lost in the lights, allowing the winning run to score and capping off the 12-2 win for the Bears on their home field.
“The thing that I like about tonight is that these guys are mad that they lost,” Madsen said. “We just played a quality, hard-hitting 4A school and we’re mad that we just got 10-runned. That message is loud and clear to me. It’s a completely different mindset with these boys and how they’re playing for games. They came down here and competed and came down here to win. That’s what impresses me.”
With the win, Rifle improves to 7-4, 3-2 4A Western Slope League, while Roaring Fork falls to 4-6, 2-1 3A Western Slope League with the loss.
Rifle will host Glenwood Springs for a doubleheader starting at 11 a.m. Saturday, while Roaring Fork will travel to Coal Ridge for a league matchup at 4 p.m. next Tuesday.