Rifle rallies to beat Glenwood 8-5 in 4A WSL baseball matchup

Mike Vidakovich
Special to the Post Independent

The Rifle Bears overcame a 5-4 deficit heading into the top of the seventh inning, scoring four runs on key hits by Austin Bowlan and Broc Caldwell to post an 8-5 victory over the Glenwood Demons on Monday afternoon at the Glenwood Middle School field.

In a typically tight and exciting contest when Glenwood and Rifle get together in any sport, it looked as though pinch-hitting junior Cooper Luetke would be the hero of the game for the Demons when he smacked a two-out single in the bottom of the sixth inning to score Ian Cecil and give Glenwood a slim 5-4 lead heading into the final frame of play.

The Demons were unable to hold on for the victory, though, as Bears junior Trey Caldwell drew a walk from Glenwood relief pitcher Jordan Meraz, and freshman Logan Gross was hit by a Meraz pitch to put runners on first and second for Rifle. Bowlan then stepped to the plate and delivered his double that put the Bears up 6-5. Caldwell drove in two more runs before Rifle was done in the inning to give the visitors an 8-5 cushion.

Glenwood didn’t go away quietly in their last chance at the plate in the bottom of the seventh inning. Senior Garrett Dollahan smoked a double into the center field gap. Fellow senior Wheatley Nieslanik, who pitched five solid innings for the Demons as the game’s starter on the mound, drew a walk, and senior Ian Cecil got aboard for Glenwood to load the bases with two outs.

The comeback wasn’t to be, though, as Rifle relief pitcher Gavin Peterson struck out Demon junior Blake Nieslanik to end the game and the Glenwood hopes for a 4A Western Slope League win.

Following the game, veteran Rifle coach Troy Phillips tipped his hat to freshman pitcher Logan Gross, who came on in relief of starter Austin Bowlan midway through the second inning, and held the Demons to just one run after the home team had jumped out to a 4-1 lead early in the game.

“(Gross) is a solid player with a good fastball,” said Phillips. “We’ve been working hard with having all of our pitchers being ahead consistently in the count.”

Phillips also pointed to the resiliency of his team being able to come back against the rival Demons after digging themselves an early hole.

“I’m proud of the kids for not allowing themselves to let the game get away early on.”

Glenwood veteran coach Eric Nieslanik was happy with how his team kept battling throughout the contest, but was concerned with their execution prior to the Bears returning to Glenwood on Thursday night for another rivalry tilt on the diamond.

“We competed today, but they executed better than us across the board,” Nieslanik said. “They got the key hits when they needed them and executed better at staying focused.”

The Demons (4-8, 4-5 WSL) will have a return date with the Bears on Thursday in Glenwood before closing out the regular season portion of their schedule on Saturday, when they will host the Eagle Valley Devils in a doubleheader scheduled for 10 a.m. and noon at the Glenwood Middle School field.

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