Patient Rifle hitters pound Palisade
Despite the handicap of having just one tune-up game prior to the start of league play, the Rifle’s baseball team has established itself as the favorite to win 4A Western Slope League regular-season pennant.
The Bears’ 14-4, mercy-rule shortened win over Palisade on Wednesday moved Rifle’s WSL record to 6-1 and boosted Rifle to a two-game lead over second-place Delta and Moffat County with two weeks left in the regular season.
Rifle hitters pounded three Bulldog pitchers for 14 hits in the contest, including a six-run outburst in the third, which effectively settled the game’s outcome.
Coach Troy Phillips attributed the win to his team’s ability to wait for good pitches – and endure the windy conditions.
“We didn’t chase the high pitches today,” Phillips said of one of the problems Rifle had in their earlier loss to the Bulldogs at Canyon View Park in Grand Junction.
“That was helpful for us. Then we got good pitches we could hit, and we hit them a lot better than we did the last time we played them,” Phillips said.
Owen Madison and Danny Fedirko doubled and Blake Barth spanked a two-run single for the key hits of the rally, which expanded a Bear two-run lead at the start of the third to 9-1.
Madison, who had three hits in four at-bats, fueled a three-run Bear rally in the fifth after Palisade narrowed the gap to 9-4.
“He’s been ripping the ball the last four games,” Phillips said of Madison’s four consecutive multi-hit games.
Palisade managed to put a dent in Rifle’s big lead in the top of the fifth when the Bulldogs roughed up starter Jason Enewold for three runs on three hits and a walk. Up to then, Enewold had limited Palisade to three scattered singles with one unearned run and six strikeouts.
The senior managed to fight his way out of trouble. But, Phillips, sensing his ace pitcher had tired, replaced his starter with shortstop Nick Krick the next inning.
The senior responded by retiring the Bulldogs in order. Then his teammate wrapped up the contest on Jesse Holgate’s two-out triple, scoring Scott Van Slyke and Fedirko, who had worked their way into scoring position with basehits earlier.
Rifle continues WSL play on Saturday with a home doubleheader at Cooper Field against Steamboat Springs. The twin bill with the Sailors is scheduled to begin at 11 a.m.
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After losing the 3A Western Slope League race in a tough, five-set loss to Basalt on April 15, the Coal Ridge High volleyball team finds its playoff fate partly out of its own hands.