Rifle ready for season opener
RIFLE, Colo. As the clouds bunched together and lightning flashed in the air, Rifle High School softball coach Cindy Skinner pulled her team off the field at Deerfield Park.With the season opener against Douglas County just a few days away, Skinner talked to the girls about the upcoming season, which is filled with much promise.Not even the gloomy weather could dampen Skinner’s enthusiasm and expectations for the Bears this season.”We have a great group to work with. They know the game and they play the game hard,” said Skinner.
The Bears return most of the squad that made it to the regional playoffs in Aurora. That team was also the co-champions of the Western Slope League and won the district title without surrendering a single run.Big shadow?Sure.But with nine players who saw varsity action last year, it shouldn’t be a problem to step out of that shadow.The Bears have nearly 30 girls out for the team. And leading the way will be a quartet who has spent its entire prep career on the varsity. That includes the team’s top-two pitchers in seniors Alissa Skinner, the coach’s daughter, and Megan McWilliams. Both also play in the outfield when not pitching.
Catcher Chelsea Webb, a senior, also returns. She played the outfield her first two years but became the Bears’ catcher last year.The fourth is senior Marissa Wilkins at second base.”These girls have had a lot of years on the field. And they’ve played together for a lot of years,” Skinner said.The Bears also have returning varsity members in Tamara Kaczmarek, a senior, as well as juniors Kelsey Pyle, Samantha Young and Tori Fazzi.
Although they have a lot of experience, hitting will again be the key for the Bears, Skinner said. That was one of the team’s strengths last year, particularly in the district tournament. The Bears outscored their opponents 28-0 in the district playoffs.”We want our team to hit a line drive or hit it hard on the ground and make them field it,” said Skinner.The Bears will be making up for the loss of all-conference shortstop Sarah Brusig, as well as three other 2006 graduates: Carrie Kreimier, Jessica Martinez and Candace Stilson.”Our goal is to get back to regionals and win a game or two up there,” Skinner said.The Bears will open the season by hosting the Huskies at Deerfield Park at 4 p.m. on Friday.
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