Western Slope softball all-stars enjoy one more game
RIFLE, Colorado – It may have been an exhibition game, but coach Cindy Skinner wasn’t about to break routine.After her assigned squad in the Western Slope All-Star Softball Classic – the Warrior Bearcats – dropped a 4-2 decision to the opposing Shockers on Tuesday, she had them run lines out in short left field.”It’s the same thing I do in high school games, have them run lines” the Rifle head softball coach said. “I told them, ‘I was your coach, so we’re going to play it like I’m the coach.'”But the real reason Skinner had the Warrior Bearcats – a medley of all-star players from her own Rifle team, Grand Junction, Grand Junction Central and Delta high schools – zipping back and forth on the softball field at Rifle’s Deerfield Park was to thank them for their participation in the inaugural event.”I really wanted you out here to say thank you and say how much fun I had,” she told them. “You’re all good ballplayers. Keep it up.”
No one on Skinner’s team was terribly distraught over the loss in what was a relaxed, exhibition tilt that Skinner and Grand Junction Free Press sports editor Phil Sandoval scrapped together.”I’m glad we did it,” said Rifle senior Chelsea Webb, who along with her Bear teammates wrapped their season way back in October. “I really wanted to play one more time. Our season didn’t end very well.”Webb and teammates Megan McWilliams, Alissa Skinner and Marissa Wilkins represented Rifle on its home diamond. All four seniors played for Coach Skinner’s Warrior Bearcat team.But it was Grand Junction Central pitcher Mikayla Duffy and the Shockers – made up of players from Central, Grand Junction, Eagle Valley, Palisade and Montrose and coached by Central head coach Sabrina Juarez – that stole the show.Duffy, only a freshman, allowed just one hit and struck out five in four scoreless innings of relief to earn the win.”It was a nice finishing touch,” Duffy, a left-hander, said of the game. “It was a good way of saying goodbye to all our seniors, our great friends. All of us were just out there having fun and enjoying the game.”While many players hadn’t picked up a softball in a while, Duffy’s been playing ball with a competitive summer team since early May.Her Shockers had to rally from a 2-0 deficit after the Warrior Bearcats went ahead early with a two-run bottom of the third inning on an RBI double by Central’s Jessica Romine and a wild pitch by starter Devyn Williams (Grand Junction).The Shockers responded with a two-spot in the top of the fourth, scoring on a passed ball and RBI single by Central’s Karen Hayter.Plating runs by way of an RBI single by Montrose’s Melinda Velasquez and a double steal of second and home involving Mary Margaret Shurden (Palisade) and Andrea Rascon (Grand Junction), the Shockers went up for good in the fifth.Duffy took care of the rest, shutting down the Warrior Bearcats down the stretch.To a player, though, Tuesday’s game was much more about one last chance to hit the diamond with their prep peers – until the fall season for underclassmen and for the last time ever for the seniors.”It was kind of a fun thing,” McWilliams said. “You take it seriously but then you don’t. Being a senior, it’s just nice to get out there and play one more time.”
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Amid hundreds of cleat-footed little leaguers casually gathered along the first baseline, the glare of parents’ sunglasses deflecting the early morning sun, coach Troy Phillips began a trip down memory lane.