Panthers pull away from Bears in nightcap
RIFLE — Troy Phillips couldn’t have been happier with the way his Rifle High School baseball team played for nine innings during Saturday’s Class 4A Western Slope League doubleheader against Delta. It was the final five innings the Bears played against the Panthers that troubled the longtime Rifle coach.
“For nine innings, we were really good,” Phillips said after the Bears were swept by the league-favorite Panthers, 3-0 and 13-3, at Deerfield Park. “It was the last four or five innings of the second game where we kind of fell apart.
“I can live with mistakes and getting beat,” the coach continued. “I just felt like our mental toughness wasn’t there. We’ve got to get better with those kind of things.”
Delta (6-0 overall, 2-0 4A WSL), a team viewed by many as a strong contender for the league championship, got a no-hitter from starting pitcher Isaiah Kathrein in the opener and a solid combined pitching performance from Keaton Reiner and Derek Horn in the nightcap.
Rifle (4-3, 2-2) matched Delta blow for blow at the start of the second game, even turning away some of the early scoring chances the Panthers had. Delta, however used a four-run third inning to take the lead for good.
“We knew that they were going to come out fired up after that first game,” Delta coach Marty Rover said. “We pitched very well and we played good defense in that first game, but Rifle has some great players and they’re we’ll coached.
“It’s always fun to play these guys because you know you’re going to get their best effort.”
Kathrein pitched a gem for the Panthers in the opener, setting down the first 11 batters he faced in order and allowing just three baserunners. He finished with seven strikeouts and just one walk, with the other two Rifle baserunners reaching on errors by Delta shortstop Tyler Sandoval.
Meanwhile, Rifle starter Bailey Hoffmeister was solid for the Bears. He scattered eight hits over seven innings, finishing with four strikeouts and one walk. Two of the three runs he allowed were earned.
Delta’s Keaton Reiher finished the opener 3-for-4 batting with a run scored and an RBI, and his run-scoring single in the top of the first inning put the Panthers up 1-0 on their way to their 3-0 win.
In the second game, Rifle starting pitcher Teig Hauer got himself out of an early jam. After a pair of errors by Rifle shortstop Gabe Marbas allowed the first two Delta batters to reach base and Sandoval reached on a fielder’s choice to load the bases, Jer Baker drove in Kenny Wood with an infield single. Hauer, however, got the next three batters out in order to end the threat.
The Bears countered in the bottom of the first inning when Hoffmeister led off with a double and later scored on a bases-loaded, two-out walk from Marbas. Delta responded in the top of the second inning with RBI singles from Reiner and Baier, but Rifle center fielder Layton Stutsman’s bulls-eye throw to catcher Wyatt Robinson cut down Sandoval at the plate trying to score from second base on Baier’s single.
Rifle tied it again in the bottom of the second inning on an RBI single from Stutsman and a bad-hop base hit to third base from Hauer that scored Hoffmeister.
The Panthers, however, took the lead for good in the top of the third on a two-run single from Wood, which was followed by an outfield error from Alex Gould that allowed two runs to score and Reiner to reach third and for the Panthers to take a 7-3 lead.
From there, Reiner settled down on the mound for Delta. He allowed three hits in the next three innings, but none of four Rifle batters who reached went past second base. He allowed eight hits in five innings with three walks and seven strikeouts over the course of the 13-3 win.
Rifle got a triple from Gould and a double from Dalton Bornholdt off Horn, the Delta relief pitcher, but Horn kept the Bears from scoring again.
“The second game, it got out of hand a little bit with some of the mental mistakes we made,” Hoffmeister said. “The good thing about those is that they’re fixable, and we’ll take care of those as the season goes on.”
Stutsman finished the game 2-for-4 with an RBI and Hoffmeister scored two of the three runs for the Bears, who are off until April 3 when they host Coal Ridge. Wood finished 3-for-5 with a bloop double, two RBIs and four runs scored to pace the Panthers, who are scheduled to host Eagle Valley on Tuesday.
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