Bloody knuckles and a blank stare said it all for the Moffat County baseball team after a doubleheader against Rifle on Saturday.
Moffat County senior pitcher Jared Lowther bloodied his right hand when he punched the 321-foot sign in right field during the post-game jog. The sign and his knuckles took the brunt of punishment for Rifle scoring the winning run in the bottom of the seventh.
Lowther sharply said he was frustrated "just a little bit" after giving up a 9-8 lead to the Bears in their final at bat.
"We left, I don't know how many runners on base," he said.
Coach Scott Parker sat motionless in the dugout, glaring at the field after the loss. He is 0-6 against the Rifle Bears during his career.
"It wasn't that final inning that cost us," Parker said. "It was the third. We had three errors and gave them six runs."
Even Rifle coach Troy Phillips thought his team had escaped with one.
"We were lucky," he said. "To have our guys come through, that was great."
The Bulldogs had hopes for at least a split of the doubleheader. That would give set them up to finish in the top two of the Western Slope League.
The Bears had different ideas, pulling out a 6-1, 10-9 sweep.
"We talked earlier in the week about how Rifle doesn't make many mistakes," Parker said. "They capitalized today."
The Bears won behind the pitching of Matt Jones and clutch defensive plays.
They held off a Bulldog team that had a runner on base in every inning but scored only once when Bryan Richards batted in Lowther in the first.
"I thought Matt hit the spots he needed to when he got into trouble," Phillips said of his pitcher's three-hit complete game.
Rifle spread out their runs, with two in the first and seventh innings and single runs in the third and fourth innings.
Eli Snead had a two-run home run in the first, and Brandon Leuallen connected for a solo shot in the third off of Moffat's Bryan Wojtkiewicz.
In game two, the Bulldogs found their offense from the bat of Richards.
The sophomore hit a two-run home run in the first and a solo shot in his next at bat in the third to put his team up, 3-0.
"We came out more aggressive at the plate in the first five innings of the second game," Parker said.
"We've got to be able to have that aggressive mentality throughout."
The errors that Parker was dwelling on after the game happened in the bottom of the third inning.
They came at Richards' expense on the mound.
The Bears batted around in the inning with Bryce Enewold, Leuallen and Uriel Quezada all coming up with RBI hits. Quezada's was a two-run single with the bases loaded that landed less than a foot inside the right-field line.
Moffat added two runs in the top of the fourth when right-handed Kyle Sorensen looped an opposite-field two-run single.
In the top of the fifth, the Bulldogs scored four runs with two outs. Consecutive hits by Brad Grinstead, Brian Berhman, Billy Ivy and Sorensen were part of the rally.
Berhman's hit was an RBI double. Ivy reached safely when Snead bobbled his hit at third. Sorensen knocked in Berhman, and Ivy scored on a balk by Leuallen.
The Bears came within one run in the bottom of the fifth when centerfielder Tyson Thompson lined a curveball that landed just inside the left-field line to score Jones and Quezada.
"I made an error in centerfield (in the fifth," Thompson said. "I had to make up for it."
Parker was upset with himself for keeping Richard on the mound too long in the fifth. He gave up a double to Quezada before Lowther came in for relief.
"I kept Richards in one too many," Parker said.
Neither team added runs in the sixth, and Moffat had a 9-8 going into the bottom of the ninth.
With one out, Quezada was hit by a pitch. Thompson hit a single to left that slipped under Brian Ivy's glove, which allowed Quezada to score and advanced Thompson to second. Then Melody hit a gapper to right center, and Thompson scored the winner easily.
"This was huge," Melody said.
"We knew it was going to be tight, and we needed the wins with Delta coming Tuesday."
The Bears are tied with Delta in the loss column with one a piece. The Bulldogs slipped to 4-4 in the Western Slope league and into fourth place behind Delta, 10-1, Rifle, 6-1, and Glenwood Springs, 6-3.
Moffat has lost nine consecutive games to Rifle.