RIFLE (4/8/14) – It’s called “Small Ball,” and the Rifle Bears under coach Troy Phillips have excelled at doing the little things right to win baseball games. Their 6-5 extra-inning comeback win over Glenwood Springs Tuesday evening was an excellent example.
The Bears (7-4, 4-3 WSL) parlayed four stolen bases, three bunts, and several untimely gaffs by their opponents into an unlikely victory in a game in which they were outhit 12-7, and Demon pitcher Chase Nieslanik went from hero to his own worst enemy.
Three Glenwood errors and four stolen bases had led to a 3-1 Rifle lead going into the fifth inning, despite the Demons putting two runners on in every inning off Bear starter Dalton Bornholdt. It looked like another scoring opportunity would be thwarted after Kiefer Brocker and Ian Scruton opened the frame with singles only to have the Demons’ third and fourth hitters in the lineup make outs. But Nieslanik, who had homered in the last two games he pitched, belted a two-out, three-run home run over the right field fence for a 4-3 lead.
Layton Stutsman singled to open the home half of the 5th but was thrown out attempting to steal by Demon catcher Chris Sarabia, and Nieslanik struck out the next two Bears on sharp-breaking curve balls.
Bornholdt retired the first two Demons in the 6th, but three singles from Luke Ray, Brocker, and Scruton plated one run for a 5-3 lead, and a double steal had runners on 2nd and 3rd with leading hitter Sarabia coming up. Coach Phillips went to ace Bailey Hoffmeister and he got a strikeout to strand the runners.
Alex Gould, who had doubled to lead off the 4th, belted a ball over the centerfielder’s head for a leadoff triple and Wyatt Robinson’s single past third scored Gould. Bornholdt bunted back to Nieslanik, who threw the ball past first. As pinch runner Ivan Quezada headed for third, a late throw bounced into foul ground, allowing him to score the tying run. Two more bunts led to runners at 2nd and 3rd, and Hoffmeister was walked intentionally to load the bases with one out.
Nieslanik got Stutsman, who was 3-for-3, to pop up and Tristan Harris turned a grounder by Tieg Hauer into a force at third to keep the game tied at 5.
An error by Rifle with one out in the 7th was erased when Robinson threw out a pinch runner trying to steal. Sarabia matched that, gunning down Gabe Marbas after a lead-off walk in the bottom of the inning.
Glenwood duplicated that feat in extra innings when Steve Romero walked to open the 8th but was cut down stealing by Robinson after Shane Cleveringa failed to execute a bunt. Luke Ray singled with two out and stole second, but Brocker, who was 4-for-4, grounded out to short to end the inning.
Tristan Harris replaced Nieslanik, who had made 106 pitches and yielded just two earned runs in 7 innings, but the Glenwood defense didn’t support him any better as a bobbled grounder to 2nd put Bornholdt aboard. A balk was called on Harris, sending the runner to second. Three bunt attempts by Jeremiah Aragon failed, and Harris struck him out as well as the next hitter.
With Bornholdt at 2nd, Glenwood again walked Hoffmeister intentionally to set up a force at all three bases, but the strategy went for naught as a grounder went off shortstop Steve Romero’s glove and Bornholdt scored the winning run as the ball rolled into centerfield – the 8th error committed by the Demons, who had made only two errors total in their five straight wins.
Hoffmeister (4-1) pitched 2-and-a-third innings for the win, and Harris (3-1) took his first loss of the season.
Glenwood (5-3, 2-1 WSL) will travel to Palisade (5-3, 3-0) for a doubleheader Saturday while the Bears go to Steamboat Springs (5-1, 2-1) for two.
R H E
Glenwood 0 0 1 0 3 1 0 0 – 5 12 8
Rifle 1 0 1 1 0 2 0 1 – 6 7 2
2B- Brocker, Gould. 3B- Gould. HR- Nieslanik(3). RBI- Marabas, Sarabia, Nieslanik 3, Brocker. SB- Hauer 2, Stutsman, Aragon, Ray 2, Brocker, Scruton. CS- Sarabia, Harris, Stutsman, Marbas, Romero.
WP- Hoffmeister (4-1). LP- Harris (3-1).