Rifle’s softball playoff hopes go down swinging
GYPSUM – It wasn’t a perfect game, but Eagle Valley’s almost flawless effort in Saturday’s district tournament was enough to dash Rifle’s hopes of advancing to the Class 4A state playoffs.Chelsea Lueders, the Devils’ pitcher, muted the Bears offensive with a 12-strikeout performance, allowing only two Rifle baserunners to get into scoring position in a complete game two-hitter.”Eagle didn’t make any mistakes today. They played an incredible game,” said Rifle coach Troy Phillips. “Their defense caught everything we hit, and they just played a perfect game.”The Bears’ lack of hitting was compounded with defensive lapses which led to three Eagle Valley unearned runs which turned into a 4-0 lead by the fifth inning.”Our pitcher (Alissa Skinner) had a great game, too,” Phillips said. “We just didn’t make the defensive plays behind her that would have kept them from scoring the runs they did.”Skinner gave up one extra base hit and seven hits in seven innings.Eagle Valley took the lead on a misplayed ball by Rifle right-fielder Katie Buchanan after Emily Lybarger singled through the infield in the second inning.The bobble, which rolled to the outfield fence until Buchanan retrieved the ball, allowed two runners to score.Amy Strakbein, who got aboard on a Skinner walk, scored easily. What surprised the Bears was Lybarger coming in right behind her teammate.”With Emily’s speed, I had no doubt that she would score. She was going one way or the other,” said Eagle Valley coach Bill Beasley. “Once I saw the outfielder bobble the ball, I knew we had a shot at it. It would have taken a perfect throw to get her at the plate.”Two innings later the Devils took advantage of Morgan Strakbein’s bases-loaded single on an infield error by Sarah Brusig to double their lead.While Lueders kept on mowing down Rifle batters.Brusig was the only Bears hitter to get beyond first base through five innings. That scoring chance died quickly when Lueders ended the threat by forcing an inning-ending groundout from Roni St. Pierre.Lueders responded to a second challenge in the sixth with a pair of strikeouts in-between Brusig and Massey getting on.Rifle finished the year at 15-5. The team appears to have some rebuilding to do with seven seniors, including six starters, to replace.”This team came a long way this year,” Phillips said. “They learned a lot and understand situations better than any team we’ve had. That’s something that will carry over with the younger players.”
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