Delta storms back to top Rifle in nonleague battle
A four-run, two-out rally in the top of the seventh inning sparked the visiting Delta Panthers to a 9-6 win Wednesday night at Cooper Field in Rifle during a nonleague affair against the Rifle Bears.
The Bears got two quick outs in the top of the seventh inning before starter Takoda Chaney had to exit the game due to the pitch count, leading to the Delta rally. Panther senior Tristan Brown roped a ground-rule double to left-center, sparking the four-run outburst with two outs in the inning.
Brown scored two batters later on an RBI single to left by Justin Violett before a three-run double by senior Ty McCurdy cleared the bases, giving Delta the 9-6 lead.
Rifle then went down in order against Delta junior Jaspar Carmichael in the bottom of the seventh, capping off the complete game win for the Panthers’ starter.
“I thought that the guys really competed well against a good team that they faced tonight,” Rifle Head Coach Troy Phillips said. “I thought that we played better. I thought that we hit the ball better, but they just found ways to hit balls off the end of the bat that fell in front of our outfielders, and we just didn’t have the range to get there. That allowed them to get a few runs here and there to stay with [us].
“But we were that close in the final inning to getting the game. Unfortunately, just the little things allowed it not to happen for us. It could have gone either way.”
Despite falling in heartbreaking fashion, the Bears seemed to be in control early as the veteran team struck for three runs in the bottom of the first inning. Freshman infielder Derek Wagler ripped an RBI double down the left-field line to get Rifle on the board early, before senior Drake Montgomery tacked on a sacrifice fly to drive in senior Gabe Marbas to make it 2-0.
Senior Blaine Vance reached on a Delta error, driving in Wagler to make it 3-0 quickly.
Delta responded in a big way in the top of the second, thanks to two wild pitches from Chaney to make it 3-1, before an error on Rifle allowed a second run to score for Delta, pulling the Panthers to within one run at 3-2.
Rifle answered right back with two runs in the bottom of the second as Chaney lined an RBI double to dead center, scoring junior Connor Gould before a Delta wild pitch allowed Chaney to race home, giving the Bears a 5-2 lead after two innings of play.
Once again, Delta answered with two more runs in the top of the third as Violett tripled to right, scoring senior Blake Reiher before a bloop single into shallow center by Carmichael drove in Violett to make it 5-4.
One inning later Delta tied it up as Reiher doubled down the line in right, scoring McCurdy. But Rifle answered two innings later as Montgomery smoked an RBI triple to right-center, scoring senior Bryer Rew to give the Bears a 6-5 lead.
From there, Chaney took control on the mound, retiring Delta in order in the sixth inning before getting two quick outs in the seventh inning. However, after the second out of the inning, the senior reached his pitch-count limit for the game, forcing him to make the switch to center.
“He just kept battling all game,” Phillips said. “He kept getting outs; he should have gotten more outs, but we let him down a few times in the field. But I thought he really pitched well tonight.”
Following Chaney’s exit, the Panthers found their groove offensively, scoring the four runs in the top of the seventh to pick up the win.
With the loss, Rifle falls to 9-5, 5-2 4A Western Slope League on the season. The Bears will host Steamboat on Saturday morning for a league doubleheader at Cooper Field.
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The Coal Ridge High boys suffered their first 3A Western Slope League loss of the year Thursday night on the road at Gunnison, falling to the defending league champion Cowboys 65-45.