Rifle upended by Palisade in regular season finale
No team ever wants to see an opponent celebrating a win on its own field, but that’s what the Rifle Bears’ baseball team experienced Wednesday night at Cooper Field in Rifle.
The visiting Palisade Bulldogs dog-piled between the pitcher’s mound and first base after the final out as Palisade clinched the 4A Western Slope League championship with a 5-2 win over the Bears.
Palisade capped off a terrific regular season, finishing 16-3, 11-1 4A WSL on the year.
In the deciding game Wednesday night, Rifle jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the third inning as senior left fielder James Magnuson started the Rifle attack by reaching on a hit by pitch with one out in the inning.
Senior pitcher Takoda Chaney, who shut down the Palisade attack through three innings with four strikeouts to start the game, followed with a double to center, putting runners on second and third with one out.
Senior catcher Gabe Marbas came through for the Bears one batter later with a sacrifice fly to drive in Magnuson, giving the Bears a 1-0 lead.
Palisade responded quickly though as senior Isaac Maestas led off with a single before advancing to second on a passed ball. Maestas then moved up to third on a groundout to second by senior Max Noland before senior Dan McLean hit a high pop fly into shallow right-center that gave the Bears trouble, falling in for an error to tie the game at 1-1 as McLean reached second base in the process.
Senior Nate Woll followed with a walk before senior Freddie Moon drove an RBI single into left to score McLean, giving the Bulldogs a 2-1 lead. A few pitches later, Woll raced home on a wild pitch to stretch the lead to 3-1 for the Bulldogs.
The Bears and Bulldogs would continue to battle as both teams got strong starting pitching performances. Rifle was able to break through with a run in the bottom of the fifth inning as Magnuson reached on a one-out walk and Marbas reached on a sharp single that the Palisade third baseman struggled to handle, setting up senior shortstop Drake Montgomery’s heroics.
Montgomery ripped an RBI single to right to score Magnuson before racing into second, putting runners on second and third. But the Rifle threat would end as Palisade’s John Tabor recorded a strikeout for the final out of the inning, stranding two Rifle runners in scoring position.
Following Rifle’s response in the bottom of the fifth, Palisade answered right back in a big way in the top of the sixth as Woll crushed a two-run home run to left field down the line, giving the Bulldogs a 5-2 lead and putting them ever closer to the league championship.
Noland then came on in relief in the bottom of the sixth, retiring six of the final seven hitters he faced and allowing just one hit to close out the win and set off the celebration.
With the loss, Rifle falls to 11-7, 7-5 4A WSL on the year.
The Bears now await their fate in the 4A state playoffs.
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