Rifle shoots past Moffat County in ninth inning | CraigDailyPress.com

Rifle shoots past Moffat County in ninth inning

Elwood Shelton

With two outs in the bottom of seventh, and the Rifle Bears leading the Bulldogs 5-3, Moffat County sophmore Jerod Estey came up big.

With the fate of the game in his hands, Estey smashed a two-run homerun off of Rifle pitcher Brian Beecraft deep over the right-center field fence, tying the game at 5-5, and sending the ‘Dogs into extra innings.

“He (Beecraft) threw nothing but curveballs at us all day, and in the seventh I got lucky. He served me up a fat one that I was able to go the distance with, ” Estey said. “In truth, I felt more pressure at the plate than on the mound.

“When I was pitching I felt in control. At bat, I felt the pressure to help the team.”

Estey continued his assault on the Bears with a four strike-out streak, retiring all three batters in the eighth innig, and the first batter in the ninth.

Estey struck out a total of eight batters in the game.

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Unfortunately, the only thing that would have made a career day like this better for Estey would have been a Bulldog win.

Beecraft, though, was able to redeem himself with a solo homerun in the top of the ninth, once again forcing a late rally by the ‘Dogs.

“We knew that they (Rifle) were a solid team going into the game, that they had the ability to beat us if given the chance,” said Bulldog coach, Kip Hafey. “They were able to get the win off of us on a play that happens all the time in baseball.”

The play Hefey refered to is Estey’s hard-hit grounder with one out in the bottom of the ninth that was fielded by Rifle’s second baseman and turned into a game-ending double play.

The Bulldogs (2-3) dropped their league opener in a hard fought, extra inning battle Saturday’s home game against the Bears (2-2-1), but Coach Hafey does see some good things coming out of the loss.

“I told the guys that they have nothing to hang their head about after the effort they put out on the field against Rifle,” he said. “There is a positive that comes out of a loss like this it acts as an eye-opener for the team, it shows that we are fallible, and that we still need to improve as the season wears on.”

Beecraft produced for Rifle from the mound, striking out htree Bulldog batters, while helping his own cause, producing routine plays throughout the game. He was close to pitching an entire nine inning game, but Jason Enewald relieved him in the bottom of the ninth.

Estey relieved starting pitcher Chris Field in the fifth inning. Field, a junior, struck out three batters.

The game was a pitching battle most of the blustery afternoon, and no runs were scored until the bottom of the third inning. A single by Estey brought home sophomore Eric Bastow.

An inning later, the Bears tied up the game with an Enwald double.

The game remained scoreless until Rifle’s three-run fifth inning, which was matched by the Bulldogs big, seventh-inning rally.

Moffat County now sits at the bottom of the Western Slope Conference (WSC) with one loss, tied with Battle Mountain, while Rifle is tied for first with Glenwood Springs with one win each.

The Bulldogs look to improve their conference record Tuesday when they face their rivals the Steamboat Springs Sailors (0-3). The match-up between these two teams has been a battle in the past, and normally draws a crowd of more than 1,000 people, one of the largest turnouts for any athletic event in Routt or Moffat counties.

Hafey doesn’t see the Rifle loss holding that much validity for the team so early in the season, feeling that, in the long run, it will strengthen the team. He looks for the Steamboat match-up to serve as the game to get the boys back on track in conference play.

“We need to come out and have a solid game against Steamboat on Tuesday, if we do that, good things will happen,” he said.

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