Olathe beats host Titans in Rifle | PostIndependent.com

Olathe beats host Titans in Rifle

Jeff Caspersen
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Chad Spangler Post Independent

RIFLE, Colorado ” Only experience will help Coal Ridge mature as a baseball program.

In a Friday night doubleheader with Olathe at Cooper Field in Rifle, the Titans flashed signs that they’re on their way.

Trailing 6-2 after two innings of the nightcap ” after a 14-1 mercy-rule loss in the opener, no less ” Coal Ridge could have rolled over and allowed the Pirates to coast.

But they didn’t.

Instead, the host Titans scrapped back, eventually tying the game up with a big hit by Zack Lyon in the sixth inning in an 8-6 loss to the Pirates.

Brandon Handke’s two-run single in the seventh gave Olathe the win, but Coal Ridge coach Luke LaBaw left the field knowing his Titans are growing as a team.

“It takes time,” he said. “It’s all a learning process. We’ve made some pretty big strides. It’s hard to lose a close game ” it seems like we’ve been on the bottom end of a lot ” but we’re taking steps. We’re learning how to win.”

What got Coal Ridge going in that nightcap was a Brett Burrows two-run home run. Burrows initially showed bunt on the first-pitch blast, which cleared the left-field fence.

An RBI sacrifice bunt by Darren Matthews in the fourth made it 6-5, setting the stage for Lyon’s game-squaring dramatics in the bottom of the sixth.

With one out and the bases empty, Lyon gapped a liner into right field. On the relay to third, Olathe second baseman Dylan Markley sailed the ball out of play, allowing Lyon to snag home ” and tie the game ” on the error.

All the while, Coal Ridge starter Jonathan Roessler was stringing together quite the rebound performance on the mound. After struggling through the opening innings, he held the Pirates scoreless from the third through sixth innings.

“I don’t know who that kid is ” Roessler, I think ” but Coal Ridge ought to be proud of him,” Olathe coach Joe Archuleta, whose team improved to 13-5 overall and to 11-3 in the 3A Western Slope League. “He did a good job of mixing pitches and keeping us off balance.”

Archuleta’s team, though, showed why it’s one of the best in the 3A WSL once the seventh inning rolled around.

Markley and Jesus Suarez opened the inning with singles and Curtis Noel followed by drilling a home-run length foul down the left-field line in an at-bat that ended in a strikeout.

But Handke had his back.

With Markley and Suarez standing at second and third after a passed ball, the Pirate clean-up hitter directed a sharp single into center field that cleared the bases and put Olathe up for good, giving the team an 8-6 win.

“I felt bad for (Noel),” Handke said of his teammate and his very long strike. “I knew I had to step up.”

Handke, who had taken over the pitching duties for starter Colby Corey the previous inning, went on to strike out the side in the bottom of the seventh and pick up the win.

That, on top of a 2-for-3, four-RBI plate performance.

Lyon led Coal Ridge’s nine-hit nightcap, going 3-for-4 with two singles and a double. Darren Matthews was 1-for-2 with two RBIs, Burrows was 2-for-4, Roessler 2-for-4 with a double and Zack Mekis 1-for-3.

The Titans (6-11 overall, 4-10 in the 3A WSL) still have a pretty good shot at finishing in the top five in league and making the district playoffs. It all depends on how Basalt, Aspen and Roaring Fork fare in weekend games.

Olathe’s Jesus Suarez and tons of Pirate offense proved too much for Coal Ridge to handle in Friday’s opener.

Suarez twirled a complete-game effort in what was a 10-run rule shortened five-inning outing.

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