Begler hits, pitches Weld Central past Rifle in 3A District 7 tourney

RIFLE — Troy Phillips saw it coming.

“As soon as we got down 2-0 right away, I knew we were in trouble,” the Rifle High School baseball coach said Saturday after the Bears’ 6-0 loss to Weld Central in the first round of the Class 3A District 7 tournament.

“That kid,” the coach continued, referring to Weld Central senior right-hander Matt Begler, “throws harder than just about anyone else in our league.”

Begler was effective in more ways than one. He scattered five hits in his complete-game shutout. He struck out 12 — six of the last seven Rifle strikeout victims were caught looking — and walked only one.

He also finished 3 for 4 batting with three doubles and one RBI, helping the 30th-seeded Rebels bring an abrupt end to the season for Rifle (17-3), the state tournament’s No. 3 seed, which shared the 3A WSL title with Hotchkiss this year.

“We sometimes struggle with hitting, but today we did a good job,” said Begler, who hit cleanup against the Bears. “That’s the first time I’ve seen a lot of fastballs in a long time.”

Weld Central’s win turned out to be a prelude of things to come for the Rebels, who clinched a berth in the 3A state championships in Greeley with a 6-3 victory over University in the tournament title game. University defeated Colorado Academy 7-0 in the day’s other district semifinal.

The Rebels took an early lead against Danny Bartels (10-2), who allowed four runs, two earned, on four hits in two-plus innings. Begler’s second double of the day brought Phillips out to the mound to replace the right-handed Bartels, who told the coach he was feeling pain in his right elbow.

Triston Quigley went the rest of the way for Rifle, allowing the final two runs of the Rebels’ four-run third inning before shutting out Weld Central’s offense the rest of the way. He was the only Rifle player Begler couldn’t get out, finishing 2 for 2 with a walk and a stolen base.

Weld Central went up 2-0 in the first, going ahead for good on Begler’s RBI double down the left-field line. A two-run single from the Rebels’ designated hitter Jordan Jones capped their four-run third inning.

Rifle tried to rally in the fourth inning. Quigley’s bloop single to right field led off the inning, but Weld Central catcher Cord Dunham threw him out stealing three pitches later. Bartels and Rifle DH Bailey Hoffmeister followed with singles, but Begler struck out the next two Rifle batters to end the threat.

Turns out Rifle never threatened again, as Begler set down nine of the next 11 batters he faced to move the Rebels into the district championship game.

“There wasn’t anything that he did that was any different than what other pitchers have done against us this year,” said Quigley, whose team only loses four players to graduation. “But once he got into his rhythm, we let it get to us a bit.”

District 3: Olathe’s Josh Pietak hit a two-out, two-run single to help the Pirates upend fourth-seeded Hotchkiss in the title game.

Hotchkiss (18-3) edged Centauri 3-2 in the semifinal, with Olathe handling Peak to Peak 15-5. Olathe (16-5) advances to the double-elimination state tournament.

District 1: Gunnison fell to top-ranked Faith Christian 11-1 in District 1, with Cedaredge edging The Classical Academy 6-5 before losing in the title game to Faith, 12-1.

District 4: No. 28 Roaring Fork lost to No. 5 Florence 3-1 in the semifinal.

Class 4A

Overnight rain Friday postponed the Class 4A District 2 tournament at Evergreen on Saturday, which has been rescheduled for today. Ninth-seeded Palisade (17-2) faces No. 24 Lewis-Palmer (7-12) at 12:30 p.m.

The Bulldogs spent part of the day hitting at an indoor facility, then planned to watch D’Evelyn play Thompson Valley in the District 7 title game. Then it was back to the hotel for pizza and to watch the Denver Nuggets play the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 7 of the NBA playoffs.

“It was pretty nice and it’s just now starting to rain again,” Palisade coach Steve Moore said Saturday afternoon, groaning when he heard there wasn’t a cloud in the sky in Grand Junction.

“The (Evergreen) coach said to me when we got here, ‘I can’t believe you guys aren’t hosting this.’ I just said, ‘I know…’ I guess we need to win all of them next year.”

District 6: Seventh-seeded Montrose won the title with 6-0 win at home over No. 28 Glenwood Springs and a 6-5 win in the title game against No. 10 Pueblo West.

The Indians (15-3) won the title when they scored on a wild pitch in the bottom of the seventh inning to qualify for the state tournament starting May 18.

District 4: No. 28 Delta’s season came to an end in a 17-0 loss to No. 5 Durango. The Demons then fell to Cañon City 7-4.

Class 2A

Seventh-seeded Paonia won the Region 4 title with a 5-4 win over No. 10 Sargent and a 3-1 victory in the championship game against No. 2 Las Animas.

Against Las Animas, Paonia scored two runs in the bottom of the sixth inning and the Eagles’ Derek Hieneger pitched a complete game five-hitter.

Paonia (17-5-1) scored the winning run in the bottom of the seventh inning to defeat Sargent.


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