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Returning seniors key for Rifle Softball

Phil Sandoval

After a year of seasoning at the varsity level, the Rifle High School softball team is anxious to put what they have learned into practice.

Five returning seniors give the Bears the experience and leadership coach Cindy Skinner feels can catapult Rifle to a contending spot for the 2002 Class 4A Western Slope League pennant.

“Errors hurt us last year,” the coach said of the 2001 team’s problems which led to a disappointing 7-13 overall record.

“This year every one of our starters are coming back to the positions they know, and that experience should help.”

All nine of Rifle’s starting nine have played together for two seasons. And they are on the verge of having a breakout year, according to Skinner.

The starting battery are both seniors. Catcher Skylar Bell will call signals for the Bears’ number-one starter, Erica Graham, as well as backup Jenny Spillane.

Skinner also has a senior starter at three of the four infield positions.

Brooke St. Pierre returns as the Bears’ starting shortstop. Kristina Dahlin is scheduled to play second base, but could also see some action in the outfield.

When Spillane is not pitching, she will play first base.

The rest of the starters are juniors.

Kari Wiig is slotted as Rifle’s third baseman, but could be used at first base or as a pitcher when needed.

The outfield consists of Sarah Ramsey, Jenny Hughes and Sharee Gorham.

Heading into Friday’s season-opener Skinner was worried about the team’s hitting ability.

The coach said that aspect has brightened.

“We played well and executed plays,” Skinner said of the team’s performance in scrimmages against Class 5A schools Fruita Monument and Grand Junction Central plus league rivals Palisade and Gunnison.

Still, Skinner stressed that defense will be the key to a successful season.

“We’ve got a pretty good defense, and we’ll be OK as long as we throw strikes.”

Rifle opens the season with Grand Junction Central at 2 p.m. on Friday as part of the 10-team Peach Fuzz Tournament, held at the Kronkright Softball Complex in Northwest Grand Junction.

The Bears conclude play in the two-day tournament with a pair of Saturday games with Palisade and Montezuma-Cortez at 9 a.m. and 3 p.m., respectively.


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