RIFLE (5/29/19) – Delayed by a day due to the threat of rain, the 4A Western Slope All-Stars fell behind 4-0 and committed eight errors in the first five innings before the bats woke up and the pitchers got tough in an 8-6 win over the 3A WSL All-league team at Rifle’s Cooper Field Wednesday evening.
Rifle Bears coach Troy Phillips, organizer of the event for several years, was pleased with the entertainment value offered a boisterous crowd made up of fans from Delta to Steamboat Springs in the wide-spread Western Slope Leagues, remarking the fans were treated to “more drama” than well-played baseball.
The nature of an all-star game finds players shuttling from position-to-position, pitchers throwing to unfamiliar catchers, and even All-Conference shortstops, Chano Gonzalez of Glenwood Springs and Derek Wagler of Rifle, playing an inning or two in the outfield.
Each team used five pitchers and the format of all 40 players on the two rosters batting consecutively throughout the game. After some sloppy defense by the 4A home team and solid hitting from the 3A All-stars led to a 4-0 early lead by the visitors, a walk and two singles off Moffat County’s Drake Doherty began the comeback with Steamboat’s Max Fullerton singling in one run.
The 3A stars used a walk, stolen base by Basalt’s Alonzo Silva and two more errors to get that run back in the top of the fourth off Rifle’s Randy Starks, to lead 5-1. But Eagle’s Dillon Flaagan belted a triple to the right field wall in the home half to score brother Garrett, then came home on a sacrifice fly by Palisade's Jack Mohler, drawing within 5-3.
Moeller, one of six Palisade players on the All-league squad, took the hill for the fifth and yielded another run on a single, two-base error – his team’s eighth of the game – and a sacrifice fly. Moeller then issued back-to-back walks, but induced an inning-ending grounder from Trey Guyer of Cedaredge, whose triple keyed the first two runs of the game.
After that run in the fifth, Moeller, Gonzalez, and Sebastian Campbell of Palisade shut out the 3A stars for the final four frames of the nine-inning contest.
Tyler Dollahan of Glenwood crushed a pitch from Lane Stecklien (Coal Ridge) on one hop over the right field fence and scored on Wagler’s single to left, closing the gap to 5-4 in the last of the fifth.
Moeller put up the first zero since Caven Pawowski (Palisade) did so in the first inning, stranding two runners in the top of the sixth. The Bulldogs’ Luke Sorensen tripled to left, leading off the home half of the sixth and scored the tying run when Glenwood’s Dylan Lee grounded out to short. Stecklien hit Eagle Valley’s Lee Bullock, and the ‘Dogs’ Cody Bellmire gave the 4A team its first lead with a booming triple to center, scoring on a grounder for a 7-5 advantage.
Gonzalez, the WSL leader in strikeouts with 65, took over in the 7th, fanning the first and last hitters in the inning, escaping unscathed despite an error and two walks loading the bases. Strangley, the key to the scoreless inning was a dropped fly ball by Eagle’s Garrett Flaagan in right field. “He’s got an arm,” Phillips remarked after watching the pitcher-turned outfielder fire a strike for a force out at second base.
Given that reprieve and another run to work with when Delta’s Gauge Lockhart walked four in the last of the 7th, Gonzalez struck out the side on 11 pitches in the 8th. Campbell came on to do the same in the ninth, but not until he loaded the bases on two walks and a hit batsman, finally fanning Guyer to end the game.
The 3A All-Stars left 13 runners on base, failing to take full advantage of ten free passes and eight errors. Moeller, with 2 RBI’s along with starting the scoreless closeout and earning the pitching victory, was selected the game’s MVP by the KMTS broadcast team.