Rifle hoping late start turns in to victories
RIFLE – The biggest problem the Rifle baseball team has had this season is the inability to play a game.
Between last week’s spring break and mid-March snows wiping out the Skyline Tournament, the only game action the Bears have had going into Saturday’s Western Slope League opener with Delta is a few scrimmage innings.
The Bears’ lack of action, weather permitting, will be rectified with four games in three days this week.
Prior to Saturday’s home doubleheader with the Panthers, Rifle has two tough non-league games on the schedule with Class 5A Littleton on Thursday and 4A Mountain View from Loveland on Friday.
One problem Bear coach Troy Phillips doesn’t have is with personnel.
An extensive summer program has allowed Phillips to determine his roster and the positions they will play during the high school season.
The coach said the team will consist of 13 players, with the possibility of adding a 14th player from the junior varsity later in the year.
Another problem Phillips appears not to have is a lack of pitching.
The coach has six pitchers to choose from.
He said that’s important because the WSL has more league games than it has had in the past.
“It’s going to be very difficult to get by with one pitcher,” said Phillips of the change. “You’re going to need at least two to be competitive.”
And Rifle has a very good one-two combination to rely on in junior Jason Enewold and senior Nick Crick.
The pitching staff is bolstered by the return of Brad Pace to the Bears after being shelved from action the past two years due to an arm injury. The rest of the staff consists of Danny Fedirko, a senior up from the JV’s, junior Josh May and senior Blake Barth.
Enewold and Crick will share duties at shortstop when they are not pitching. The rest of the infield has Barth settling in at first base, returning letterman Owen Madison, a junior, at second at Fedirko at third.
Junior Scott VanSlyke is the Bears’ new starting catcher this year.
As a sophomore, VanSlyke split time shuttling between the varsity and the JVs.
Two of Rifle’s outfield positions have been determined. May will start in right field with senior Jesse Holgate in center.
Phillips said that sophomore Taylor Arbaney has been given the starting left field job for now, but faces a stiff challenge from David Pettinger and Kip Jessup.
Phillips sees Palisade, Moffat County and Delta as the teams to beat for the WSL’s regular-season pennant, and the number-one seed in the post-season district tournament.
The cancelation of the Skyline Tournament has forced the Bears to scramble for more games.
Rifle has added non-league contests at Middle Park on April 4 and at Montrose on April 12 as replacements.
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