THORNTON (5/17/19) – First, there were no umpires, then there were lightning delays, so Rifle’s first-round 4A state playoff game, which was to begin at 10 a.m. at Skyview High School, finally ended three-and-a-half hours later with the 8th-seeded Bears falling to the top-seeded Wolverines, 7-3.
Arriving for their scheduled 12:30 game, the 5th-seeded Glenwood Springs Demons, lounged in a grassy area beyond the right-field fence, waiting for a rematch with a Golden Demon team that would eventually knock them out of the playoffs for the second consecutive season, 5-2.
Despite the interminable waiting caused when CHSAA scheduled the umps for Saturday, but Skyview moved the game to Friday because of its graduation plans, and two, separate one hour delays due to the threat of lightning, both local teams represented the Western Slope League well.
An uncharacteristic two-out error by stellar Rifle shortstop Derek Wagler helped Skyview add two runs to open a 3-0 lead in the third, but the resilient Bears came back to make a game of it.
The Wolverines’ junior ace, Braulio Angel had a one-hitter with six strikeouts through four innings, but Broc Caldwell worked a 3-2 walk and Charlie Hisel belted a double beyond the reach of centerfielder Corey Musch, who had robbed Wagler of extra bases the inning before.
With runners on second and third, Wyatt Warfel, who had Rifle’s first hit in the third, ripped a single that got past the rightfielder, scoring both. An error prolonged the opportunity but Gavin Peterson’s pop fly turned into a doubleplay when pinch runner Easton Phillips was trapped off second.
Rifle pitcher Randy Starks had battled through four innings, keeping the score down, stranding five runners, but he couldn’t outlast the one hour lightning delay in the last of the fifth that seemed to awaken the Wolverine bats.
Omar Rascon led off with a deep fly ball that centerfielder Levi Warfel seemed to have a bead on until leftfielder Peterson came charging over, and both backed off, letting it drop for a triple.
AJ CDbaca, who drove in the game’s initial run in the first inning, made it 4-2 with a single to left. Starks fanned the next hitter on a curveball, before the umps waved everyone off the field. A Skyline administrator, consulting his phone app, determined that there was lightning within a ten-mile radius, mandating a 30-minute hiatus, which turned into 65 minutes before play resumed.
Starks immediately yielded a single, got the second out on a fly ball, then pinch hitter Adrian Acosta lined a back-breaking, two-RBI single to right for a 6-3 advantage.
Rifle cut the deficit to two when Wagler, who led the WSL with a .556 average, blasted a triple to center and beat the throw home on Eddie Medina’s short fly to right.
Another lightning threat set the teams down for an hour before Medina relieved Starks and yielded an inside-the-park home run to Isaac Madrid. Skyview threatened to add more with back-to-back singles, but Caldwell backhanded a grounder up the middle, stepped on second and fired to first to end the inning with a DP.
Angel struck out the side in the 7th, but the Bears’ season was prolonged one batter when the last pitch got past the catcher. No matter, as Angel completed the four-hitter one out later, finishing with a dozen strikeouts. Playing their final game for the Bears were seniors Medina, Starks, and Wyatt Warfel. Skyview (19-2) will host Golden (17-6) after its graduation ceremony concludes on Saturday.
GOLDEN 5, GLENWOOD SPRINGS 2
Despite getting the leadoff hitter aboard in three of the first four innings, Glenwood, beginning its game about four hours later than planned, stranded five runners against Golden ace Ben McLaughlin and trailed 2-0 going into the fifth.
Catcher Tyler Dollahan's rifle arm nailed two base runners to help keep Golden off the scoreboard in the first two innings. A hit batter, walk, and an error contributed to the Golden Demons' two unearned runs off Chano Gonzalez in the third, and the senior hurler escaped a bases loaded jam of his own making in the fourth. After walking the 8th and 9th hitters with two outs, Gonzalez, the WSL’s strikeout leader, caught leadoff hitter Seth Keener looking at a third-strike curveball.
His teammates mounted a two-out rally of their own when McLaughlin walked Dylan Lee and Tyler Dollahan. Sam Fitzwilliams shot a grounder into right to score one and Kai Kanzer boomed a double to left on the next pitch. Dollahan scored the tying run, but Fitzwilliams was tagged out at home, ending the inning.
Gonzalez, who would walk eight and hit one in the game, lost the leadoff hitter on a 3-2 count, then gave up a single to McLaughlin, bringing up Joe Quintana, one of just two seniors in the lineup for Golden.
The clean-up hitter belted Gonzalez’ next pitch off the 365-ft. sign in left center, scoring both runs, but inexplicably, stopped at first. The next hitter bunted, and seeing no one at third, Quintana beat everyone to the deserted bag. Cole Houston misjudged Sam Vogel’s fly ball in center and it dropped, but Gonzalez turned a weak pop up into an inning-ending doubleplay.
McLaughlin, energized by the new-found lead, struck out the side in the 6th, and two of three hitters in the 7th to complete his four-hit, 12-strikeout win.
Glenwood finishes its season, 14-9, with a 9-3 league record, and bids farewell to seniors Gonzalez, Kanzer, Lee, Leo Anchondo, Tyler Dollahan, Liam McMahon, and Ryan Welsh.