Rifle survives in Junior boys
By KENT MINCER
By Bob Statler’s count, he can pitch 10 of the 11 players on his Rifle Junior boys Little League baseball roster.
On Friday night, he threw 80 percent of his staff.
He needed them all as Rifle advanced in the losers’ bracket with a 16-8 victory over Grand Mesa at Orchard Mesa Little League field in the district tournament.
“We can throw a lot of pitchers on the mound and if anyone gets in trouble, we can go to somebody else,” Rifle’s coach said.
A couple of them did get in trouble. When the final out was made, Statler had used eight of his pitchers. Six threw 20 pitches or less and can come back to pitch tonight if needed.
Rifle jumped to a 4-0 lead in the top of the first inning. Grand Mesa came back to tie it in its half of the first.
Statler’s big concern at that point was that his players might get down, something that happened in Rifle’s 8-5 loss to Three Rivers on Wednesday.
“They kept their heads up,” he said.
Particularly effective at the plate was the two-hole batter, Danny Bartels, who had three hits, including a pair of doubles, and drove in two runs.
“I was seeing the ball pretty well,” Bartels said.
After losing to Three Rivers, “We decided we were going to play seven innings instead of five,” Bartels said of his team’s late letdown in the loss.
From here on out, “That’s something we’re going to do,” Bartels said.
“I’ve got to win three (games in the losers’ bracket) to get back to where we were,” Statler said.
That quest continues tonight when Rifle takes on Palisade at 8 in another elimination game.
Because of its late start (the Rifle-Grand Mesa game took 3 hours and 10 minutes to play), results from Friday night’s Three Rivers-Cortez game in the championship bracket were unavailable at press time.
Three Rivers won the 9-10 year-old boys National division championship, defeating Monument 12-9. It was Three Rivers’ second three-run victory over Monument in the tournament.
Orchard Mesa forced a second championship game in the 9-10 girls division, defeating Fruita 7-5. The two teams play for the title tonight at 7 at Grand Mesa.
Montrose eliminated Grand Mesa 8-2 in the 11-year-old boys losers’ bracket in Montrose. It advances to play unbeaten Orchard Mesa in the championship at 5:30 this evening.
In the Major boys tournament at Monument, the host squad rallied for three runs in the sixth inning to overtake Cortez 10-9. Monument plays Grand Mesa at 5:30 p.m. in a losers’ bracket game.