Pitching, defense keys to success
Post Independent Staff
RIFLE ” Success in high school girls softball is usually measured by the strength of a team’s pitching staff and its defense.
Those are two areas Rifle head coach Troy Phillips feels good about as the 2005 Bears open the season with a league game Thursday at Montrose. That game is followed by Friday’s home-opener against Class 5A Douglas County at Deerfield Park.
“I think this will be one of the best teams that we’ve had in the last three years I’ve been coaching at the varsity level,” Phillips said of the Bears’ defense.
The defense will be aided by the return of sophomore starting pitchers Megan McWilliams (4 wins, 4 losses, 2.76) and Alissa Skinner (6-5, 3.01).
Defensively, Rifle is strong up the middle, with all-leaguer Lindsey McCue-Locke (.357 batting average) manning the catching duties and returning veterans Sarah Brusig and Amber Massey at second and shortstop, respectively.
Sophomore Chelsea Webb begins her second year as the Bears’ center fielder. Left field will be manned by Skinner or McWilliams.
Three players ” Roni St. Pierre, Katie Buchanan and Jessica Martinez ” all could see playing time in right field. Bridget Peters, another 2004 first-team, all-leaguer, is the third baseman. Trisha McDowell has earned the starting job at first.
The Bears, who finished 10-12 (3-3, 4A Western Slope League), are most concerned with hitting, along with gaining some momentum with a few early-season wins.
Phillips said the team’s hitting mechanics are fine in practice, but the problems come in game situations.
“When we get against live pitching (the team) has a tendency to back out,” the coach explained. “We have to get them over their fear of the ball.”
That fear, along with last season’s overall high school-level inexperience, translated into a anemic .261 team batting average and a 2-8 record at mid-season until Rifle hit its stride.
Facing league opponents, the Bears won six of their last eight regular-season games and advanced to the district tournament semifinals before losing to Eagle Valley.
Thursday’s game with Montrose has added importance, Phillips noted, because it’s a league contest and counts for a obtaining a good seed when the playoffs start in mid-October.
“The regular season is what you use to get as good as you can before districts,” said Phillips. “Hopefully, we’ll have a team that will improve each game.”
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The Rifle and Glenwood Springs girls tangled on Tuesday night at Glenwood’s Chavez-Spencer Gymnasium in a 4A Western Slope League contest that carried major implications in the conference standings.