Rifle rally comes up short

Jon Mitchell
Post Independent Sports Editor
Rifle High School shortstop Emma Speer makes contact with the ball during the Bears' season-opening softball game against Delta at Deerfield Park on Thursday. Delta won, 8-7.
Jon Mitchell / |

RIFLE — An ugly inning in the field by the Rifle High School softball team was negated by a beautiful comeback attempt from the Bears against the Delta Panthers on Thursday.

Brittany Neuroth was 2-for-4 batting with three RBIs to lead a late offensive charge for the Bears, who nearly rallied from an early 7-0 deficit before the Panthers held on for an 8-7 victory at Deerfield Park in the season opener for both teams.

“We needed to settle down and get into our groove,” Neuroth said of the third inning, where the Panthers scored six runs to take that seven-run lead early on. “We have a tendency to start off a little slower than we need to, but we’re working on that.”

The big third inning for Delta (1-0) was helped in part by four Rifle errors, with four of those runs coming off of those fielding miscues. Rifle (0-1) put together a rally, however, using a three-run fifth inning to get back into the game before the Bears nearly sent the game into extra innings in the bottom of the seventh.

“I think they rushed everything there in that inning because we as a coaching staff teach them to look for that next play,” Rifle coach Cindy Skinner said. “So in an attempt to get that next play, they got excited and didn’t take control of what they were doing.

“After that,” the coach continued, “they started playing like they know how.”

Rifle finished with seven hits — six of which came from the fifth inning on — to pepper what had been a solid pitching performance from Delta’s Lily Lockart. She walked seven and struck out five, but she’d only allowed one hit through the first four innings.

Lockart hit a solo homer to center field in the first inning to put the Panthers up for good. Delta only had six hits, but a sacrifice fly from Bry Music to drive in Kasha Culver in the top of the sixth inning gave Delta an 8-4 lead and proved to be the decisive run.

The Bears didn’t back down, though.

Emma Speer, who finished 2-for-4 with a pair of doubles, hit her second double with one out in the seventh inning and advanced to third when the ball was bobbled in the outfield. Neuroth singled to score Speer, Melissa Steinbach singled to put runners on the corners, Jenny Cross followed with an RBI single and Allie Magee drove in Steinbach with a groundout to bring the Bears within a run. Lockart, however, struck out the next Rifle batter, Taylor Morris, to end the threat.

Rifle will try to rebound at 10 a.m. Saturday when the Bears host Montrose.

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