Rifle softball heading to regionals in Denver
Coming off of an impressive regular season in which the Rifle Bears girls softball team finished 14-5 (7-1 4A Western Slope League) and won the 4A WSL outright over Palisade and Eagle Valley, the Bears will head to Denver as the state’s No. 21 seed out of 32 teams in 4A for a Regional tournament at Lutz Sports Complex in Arvada. The Bears will first face Thomas Jefferson at 10 a.m.
“The one thing I’ve been trying to teach the girls and preach to them is to focus on the process and not the outcomes sometimes in the end,” Rifle Head Coach Troy Phillips said. “Sometimes they can get caught up in whether they’re going to win or lose instead of focusing on that moment and controlling it. It’s something that has taken awhile to teach them, but hopefully they can stay in the moment this weekend and realize that the outcome will take care of itself if we make sure we’re focused on just one pitch and one play at a time.”
Thomas Jefferson comes into the game as the No. 12 seed with a 17-2 record having won the 5A/4A Denver Prep League with an impressive 8-0 league record. The Spartans have a team batting average of .482 with five starters hitting over .500 on the season, according to Max Preps stats, and they’ve also clubbed 24 home runs on the season, including eight by junior Zoey Robbins who also pitches for the Spartans.
Rifle’s batting average, while not as impressive as Thomas Jefferson’s, is a solid .349 with a .464 on-base percentage, according to team stats on Max Preps. Six hitters are currently hitting above .350 for the Bears, as junior Peyton Caldwell (.491), sophomore Shaeley Arneson (.418), sophomore Kaitlyn Jackson (.418), sophomore Amanda Green (.412), freshman Delaney Phillips (.404), and sophomore Kaitlyn Harris (.358) lead the way offensively.
One area where Rifle might have a slight edge over the Spartans is on the mound where Jackson has thrived this season with a 1.89 earned run average to go along with 111 strikeouts on the season. Robbins has a 3.08 ERA with 93 strikeouts so far this season for the Spartans.
Rifle has also shown some good team speed throughout hte 19 regular season games, stealing 72 bases on the season with three players in double digits. Claudia Abbott (10), Green (10), and Phillips (23) are the team leaders in steals. The Spartans have two players in double digits in Jaelyn Jackson (13) and Sydney Thompson (10).
The other two teams in the four-team bracket that will also be playing at 10 a.m. Saturday are No. 5 seed Wheat Ridge and No. 28 seed Pueblo Centennial. The winners of the 10 a.m. games will face each other at 12:15 p.m. as well as the two losers at 12:15 p.m.
There will be a final game between the two teams that each have one loss at 2:30 to determine the second team that will move on to the 16-team state tournament to be played in Aurora on Oct. 21-22.
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