RIFLE (4/20/19) – After an error-fueled 10-3 loss in the opener of a doubleheader to the rival Rifle Bears, the winds of change helped Glenwood Springs come back from a 4-0 deficit in game two and earn a 7-5 win with a seventh-inning rally.
A wild first inning provided a preview of what was to come for the rest of the day as a balmy beginning turned into game-changing winds by the second game. Glenwood followed a one-out walk by starter Randy Starks with three solid hits by Dylan Lee, Tyler Dollahan, and Kai Kanzer, producing two runs, but also two runners trapped off base to cut short the rally.
The Demons’ Chano Gonzalez, who tossed a brilliant one-hit, 10-strikeout masterpiece in his last outing against Battle Mountain, was Jekyll-and-Hyde against the Bears. He walked the first two batters in the bottom of the first, and after a force-out Derek Wagler and Gavin Peterson worked a double steal, resulting in a run.
Both pitchers reversed their first-inning troubles with 1-2-3 second innings, Gonzalez striking out the side and Starks getting two called third strikes surrounding a running, over-the-shoulder circus catch by Levi Warfel on a drive into deep center. Sterling outfield play, repeatedly by Warfel, but also by leftfielder Peterson and rightfielder Hayden Wells would support Starks throughout his seven-inning complete game.
The same could not be said for the Demon defense behind Gonzalez. After another 3-up, 3-down inning for Starks, Gonzalez put himself back into hot water by walking two, bringing up the dangerous Wagler, who lined a single to center. The ball bounced over centerfielder Ian Cecil’s head, permitting both runners to score.
Clean-up hitter Eddie Medina, second in the league in hitting and RBIs, lofted a fairly deep fly ball to left, where Kanzer camped underneath it, only to drop the ball. Warfel then rapped a one-hopper to second base that caromed off Anchondo allowing another runner to score. The follies were not finished for the Glenwood defense, as Warfel took off for second only to see the fourth Demon error let in another run when the catcher’s throw sailed into center.
Rifle tallied its fifth run of the inning when Charlie Hisel managed one of only three off Gonzalez, despite his yielding eight runs.
Dollahan doubled to left in the Demon fourth, scoring on Cole Houston’s single, reducing the Bears’ lead to 6-3, but four more Glenwood errors in the home half contributed to two more Rifle runs despite Gonzalez striking out the side.
Starks settled down, retiring six straight Demons, the last three settling into the glove of centerfielder Warfel, where fly balls go to die. Two walks, a wild pitch, and another double steal of home off reliever Leo Anchondo capped the scoring for Rifle, which managed just three hits in the game, but took advantage of nine walks and nine errors by Glenwood.
Starks earned his league-leading fourth victory against two losses, while Gonzalez dropped to 1-3. The win temporarily moved the Bears into second place, handing the Demons their first league loss.
Rifle sent Eddie Medina to the mound in game two, looking for the sweep and to move one game behind undefeated Palisade in Western Slope League play. A two-out, two-run single by Peterson, and yet another double steal of home, staked Medina to a 3-0 lead in the second inning. Wagler smashed a ball to the base of the centerfield fence in the third and came all the way home when the relay throw was dropped.
Given a 4-0 lead, Medina ran into some trouble in the fourth when Sam Fitzwilliams singled and advanced to second on an errant pick-off attempt. Warfel tracked down Kanzer’s liner to center despite increasingly strong winds, but Houston bounced a single over Medina’s head to get Glenwood on the scoreboard.
Glenwood starter Dylan Lee had his best inning, setting down Rifle in order in the bottom of the fourth, and his teammates got him off the hook in the fifth. Hisel came on to pitch for Rifle, walking the leadoff hitter, then throwing pick-off attempts away to send Anchondo to third. Gonzalez grounder closed the gap to 4-2, bringing up Lee.
The Demon pitcher popped the ball up but the wind blew it away from every Rifle infielder, dropping safely and Dollahan followed by crushing a triple into the right-center gap. Fitzwilliams doubled to left, tying the score.
Glenwood’s eleventh error of the day opened the last of the sixth. A stolen base, sacrifice bunt, and a blooper that fell in behind second base gave Rifle a 5-4 lead. The Bears filled the bases off reliever Fitzwilliams, but catcher Dollahan grabbed a foul pop-up right in front of the home plate screen and Kanzer secured Peterson’s liner to right, stranding three runners.
Wagler moved from shortstop to the mound in an effort to save the doubleheader sweep for the Bears but with one out Lee drilled a double down the third base line and Dollahan, who had four hits and 4 RBI’s in the twin bill, tied the score with a single to left.
A walk and a single by Kanzer loaded the bases for Houston whose single up the middle scored the go-ahead run and a bases loaded walk to Wheatley Nieslanik provided insurance. Hisel came back in to pitch and induced a 1-2-3 doubleplay, pitcher-to-catcher-to-first, leaving Glenwood with a 7-5 lead going to the bottom of the seventh.
Fitzwilliams didn’t make it easy on himself, walking the leadoff hitter, bringing Wagler, who had four hits in the doubleheader, to the plate. A sharp grounder was fielded by Gonzalez at short; he tagged second, but the throw to first wasn’t in time, and then Medina walked. A double steal, Rifle’s fourteenth stolen bags on the day, put runners at second and third, but Fitzwilliams struck out Levi Warfel before loading the bases on a walk to Hisel.
With the home fans rooting hard for a walk-off win, Wyatt Warfel rolled an 0-2 pitch back to the mound for an easy toss to first and a doubleheader split for the Demons. Fitzwilliams picked up his third win without a loss in relief and Wagler took his first loss in three decisions.
Rifle (9-4, 4-2) has a non-league game with Middle Park Tuesday before a rematch with Palisade ((13-5, 9-0) on Wednesday, when Glenwood (7-7, 3-1 WSL) travels to Gypsum to meet Eagle Valley (7-3, 2-3).