Moffat County High School junior Joe Padon gave the Bulldogs hope in the bottom of the third inning Thursday against the Rifle Bears but it was short lasting.
Padon stepped up to bat in the third and hit his first home run of the year, a deep shot over the right-field wall that scored two runs and tied the game at five all.
The next two innings, however, saw the Bears regain the lead through steady hitting and an error-riddled Bulldogs defense. Moffat County High School committed a total of seven errors in the game.
The game closed after five innings in a ten-run rule win for Rifle, who ran up a score of 18-7 over Moffat County High School handing the Bulldogs their first 10-run rule loss in conference.
"We hit the ball well today but we just didn't get some of the calls to go our way," coach Kip Hafey said. "Rifle's a good team and they deserve their spot at the top of the Western Slope Conference."
The Bulldogs (10-7) fell behind by three runs by the third inning with the only offense coming from junior Jerod Estey. Estey boomed out two home runs for two runs in the first inning to give MCHS the early lead. But the Bears (13-3) scored five run in the next two innings.
Padon tied the game late in the third with his two-run homer and then the Bulldogs' bats went dead until the fifth inning when it was too late. MCHS scored two desperation runs in the fifth inning.
From the fourth inning on Rifle elevated its score from five runs to 18 off a fourth inning that saw seven Bears cross home plate and a fifth inning that saw six runners do the same.
Manning the mound for Moffat County was senior Chris Field, who in four innings allowed 12 hits and the same amount of runs. The senior could only strike out two batters in his stay.
He was relieved in the fifth by senior Shane Burum, who, before Thursday, had one win to his name. Burum allowed five hits and six runs two of the runs scored off of balks from the pitcher who was hurling in his first conference game of the season.
The Bears' Jason Enwald, who pitched all but one inning of the game, allowed six hits and five runs in his stay.
It wasn't Enwald's pitching that put the final nails in the Bulldogs' coffin, though. The carpenter of the Bulldogs' first loss in three games was senior Bear Blake Barth, who, in the top of the fourth, slammed a three-run home run, putting the score at an unreachable 12-5.
"We hit the ball in clutch situations," Rifle Bears coach Troy Phillips said. "We expected a different game than we had today. Usually we go into extra innings or it's a one-run game with Moffat County. Today we just hit the ball where they weren't and got a few fielding errors that helped us out."
The Bulldogs' hopes of capturing No. 1 in conference are all but dashed after losing for a second time to Rifle the only team to beat Moffat County twice in conference.
MCHS will fight for the third-place spot in conference and a three seed in next week's district tournament when the team travels to Palisade (9-8) for its final two games of the regular season.
The loss to Rifle, which was the worst defeat as far as scoring next to the March 16 16-0 defeat at the hands of Alamosa, doesn't figure to greatly in the final two games of the season.
To the Bulldogs it's a wake up call to finish the season strong.
"This loss will probably make us want to win these last games more," Burum said. "Palisade is a team we can beat and we'll have some guys ready to step up after today's loss."