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Prep baseball playoffs: Mustangs walk-off a winner over Bears

John Livingston
sports@postindependent.com

PONDEROSA 2, RIFLE 1, 8 INN.

Rifle 100 000 00 — 1 5 1

Ponderosa 010 000 01 — 2 7 1

Bailey Hoffmeister and Wyatt Robinson; Al Chapman and Freeman. WP — Chapman. LP — Hoffmeister. 2B — Rifle, Dalton Bornholdt; Ponderosa: Kian Kagen.

DURANGO — Two pitchers displayed mastery on the mound when Ponderosa and Rifle squared off Saturday in Durango.

The No. 10 Ponderosa Mustangs and No. 23 Rifle Bears went toe-to-toe for eight innings in the Class 4A District 6 baseball tournament at Ray Walden Memorial Field.

Ponderosa’s Al Chapman and Rifle’s Bailey Hoffmeister were locked in a duel all afternoon, and a tie carried into extra innings before Ponderosa’s Parker Eischen delivered a bases-loaded single in the bottom of the eighth to score Jesse Feldhaus for the walk-off win.



The 2-1 loss ended the season for Rifle (12-8), but coach Troy Phillips was more than satisfied with the way his team competed.

“It was a great game. The guys kept giving us chances to win, but it just went Ponderosa’s way,” Phillips said. “We did everything we were supposed to, they were just a little bit better than us.”



Chapman earned the win for Ponderosa (10-10). In eight innings, he allowed only five Rifle hits while walking four and hitting one batter.

Rifle’s lone run came in the top of the first inning. Hoffmeister led off with a walk and stole second base. He went on to score from third on a wild pitch.

Ponderosa answered with one run in the bottom of the second inning. Eischen singled and advanced to third on a triple by Kian Kagen. Eischen then scored on a ground ball hit by Thomas Emmette, who reached on a fielder’s choice.

The Bears threatened to score in the seventh and eighth innings, but Alex Gould was picked off at second base to end the seventh inning, and a Gabe Marbas fly ball fell harmlessly into the glove of Ponderosa’s right fielder Eric Tokuyama to end the eighth inning with the Bears stranding two runners on base.

The bottom of the eighth inning began with a highlight-reel diving stop by Rifle second baseman Ty Leyba, who scrambled to his feet and fired the ball to first base. Ponderosa’s Feldhaus was ruled safe at first, however, and Feldhaus went on to score the game-winning run.

“Our infield defense was great,” Phillips said. “That last inning [Leyba] makes a diving stop and gets an out, and the guy is called safe, and then that’s the guy who scored the winning run. Things happen, but that was the best game [Leyba] has played at second base all year.”

Hoffmeister was charged with the loss despite pitching seven-plus stellar innings. He allowed seven hits and didn’t record a strikeout, but he issued only three walks — one intentional — and hit one batter.

“It was a great pitcher’s duel, and their kid went out and changed speeds on us and kept us off-balance and threw a gem,” Ponderosa coach Jared Nicholson said of Hoffmeister’s performance. “Fortunately for us, we had enough pitching and defense to keep us in it to get the win in the end.”

Hoffmeister, a senior knuckleball pitcher, induced 14 groundball outs, six of which went to Leyba at second base.

“I would just like to thank my defense for doing everything. Getting all those groundballs and outs. They were amazing,” Hoffmeister said. “I just wanted to throw strikes and keep the ball in play, knowing I had a good defense behind me.”

Hoffmeister has pitched the past two weeks with a wrist injury on his throwing hand. He fought through the pain all day Saturday.

“It was hurting. I’ve pitched two games now on it, and it is rough,” he said. “I just wanted to be here to play for the team. If I could push through it and throw strikes to be effective, that is what I was going to do.”

Phillips credited his ace pitcher for fighting through adversity to pitch a quality game.

“He has pitched incredible all season. I can’t imagine a guy pitching that well with the injury he has. It was awesome,” Phillips said.

Rifle will see five seniors graduate from this year’s squad. Phillips is sad to see them go.

“I have enjoyed this group of guys all year long, and they are one of my favorite groups I’ve ever coached,” he said. “They did everything I asked and always gave us a chance to win. It is tough to see those seniors go, because they’ve been special.”


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