Rifle clinches league championship with win
GYPSUM ” An error or two in a game may not hurt a softball team. But, as Eagle Valley found out Thursday against Rifle, a few errors in one inning can cost a team the game.
The Devils led, 5-1, after four innings, but allowed Rifle to score five runs in the fifth, and four in the seventh, en route to a 10-5 Bears’ victory. It was Rifle’s 12th straight win and clinched the regular-season league title.
And, more importantly, the victory should give the 7-1 Bears (15-4 overall) the No. 1 seed and a first-round bye with it at next week’s district tournament ” to be held in Gypsum.
“We had a pretty good lead and had them right where we wanted them,” said Eagle Valley coach Bill Beasley. “It could have been another quick inning (in the fifth), but unfortunately we let them get back into the game, and our spirits dropped.”
When the Eagle Valley gloves had trouble, the Rifle bats started working.
“Once you get the clutch hits, it seems to carry over and spread to other players, making it easier for them to hit,” Rifle coach Troy Phillips said.
In the fifth inning, the Bears batted around. Katie Buchanon hit one of her two ground-rule doubles to left field, knocking in a run.
The Devils got out of the fifth inning on a heads-up play by Kayla Phillips. With a Rifle runner leading off from third base after a pitch, Phillips gunned the ball to Amy Strakbein for the pickoff play.
“We’ve practiced the play before, but we’ve never done in the game,” Kay Phillips said. “I was just hoping I wouldn’t overthrow the ball.”
Kay Phillips also caught a runner stealing second base with a runner at third.
In the fourth inning, Rifle catcher Lindsey McCue-Locke showed her arm speed, picking off a Devils runner standing a few feet off first base.
Some of the calls and situations in the game made for a messy scorecard. In the top of the fourth inning, with Buchanon at bat for Rifle and Roni St. Pierre on first, Buchanon hit what looked like a single. But after the play, the umpire called St. Pierre out for leaving first base early, and sent Buchanon back to bat.
On the next pitch, it appeared that Buchanon was hit by a pitch, and the home plate umpire sent her to first. Beasley appealed the call to the first base umpire, who overturned the call and sent Buchanon to bat yet again.
All the practice must have helped out Buchanon as she then blasted a shot to deep center, causing Eagle Valley’s Emily LyBarger to crash into the fence on a ground-rule double.
In the seventh inning, McCue-Locke was called out after being struck by a ground ball on her way to third.
Both pitchers went the distance and put plenty of balls in the strike zone. Chelsey Lueders had four strikeouts and two walks in the losing effort for the Devils.
For the Bears, Alissa Skinner struck out one and walked one, but had the Devils hit into many ground outs and fly outs.
“Our pitchers don’t strike too many out, but they have good fielders behind them, and they don’t walk too much,” Troy Phillips said.
Jeanette Baker had the top bat for the Devils, going 3-for-4, and scoring a run. Kayla Phillips had two hits, an RBI and threw out a runner.
All of the Bears reached base, and all but one had a hit in the game.
“To fall down, 5-1 in a huge game and then to come back shows a lot of character,” Troy Phillips said. “I wanted to see how they would perform under pressure because we’ll have a lot of pressure in the (district) tournament next week, and hopefully it will carry over.”
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