Bulldogs look to avenge losses to Bears | CraigDailyPress.com

Bulldogs look to avenge losses to Bears

David Pressgrove

The Moffat County/Rifle baseball rivalry has been around for a while.

Just ask Moffat assistant coach Buddy Grinstead.

“I played against Brandon Leuallen’s father when I was in high school,” he said. “Now my son plays against Brandon.”

Leuallen, a 2005 graduate, was a first team Western Slope League selection this year. His Rifle Bears will be in town tonight for a doubleheader against the Moffat County American Legion Post 62 team.

During the high school season, the Bears have dominated the Bulldogs the last four years, going 8-0. Last summer the teams split a doubleheader.

“Rifle has become our biggest rivalry in baseball,” senior-to-be Bryan Wojtkiewicz said. “We’ve had some really competitive games with them.”

The teams will play four times this week with a doubleheader at 6 and 8 p.m. tonight in Craig and at 10 a.m. and noon in Rifle Saturday.

The consensus among the Bulldogs is that they’ve improved throughout the summer. The thing is they haven’t had much of a chance to measure the improvement against WSL teams, since they’ve only played two games against that league.

“It’s hard to say if Rifle can be used as a measuring stick because of who they’ll bring,” Grinstead said. “If they bring their graduating seniors it’s not a team we’ll see next year.”

Last spring, Rifle finished second in the WSL with a senior-laden team. Three of its five first-team WSL selections were seniors.

Wojtkiewicz welcomed the chance to play the entire team.

“We didn’t get it done in the high school season, but that’s what makes the summer games even more important,” he said. “We can show we have the talent and ability to play with the team that beat us.”

Bears’ coach Troy Phillips said he wasn’t sure what his team would look like tonight.

“I’ve had a couple of the older guys say they might not make it,” he said. “I plan on giving some of the younger guys who haven’t played as much a chance.”

“They’re in more of a rebuilding cycle and we’re at the top of our cycle,” Grinstead said.

Both teams are coming off a week of winning baseball.

Rifle won the Dakota Ridge Wooden Bat tournament during the weekend, defeating several teams from Class 5A schools for the title.

“We were the closest to perfection I’ve seen a team,” Phillips said. “It was the best we’ve played in a couple of years.”

The team is now 16-5 during the summer with most of their games against Legion A-teams (teams with high school graduates).

Phillips wasn’t sure how his players would approach tonight.

“The intensity level against Western Slope teams hasn’t been that high this summer because (the games) haven’t been as competitive,” he said. “Knowing Moffat will be one of the better teams next year, hopefully that will give them incentive.”

The Bulldogs went 6-0 last week, winning by 10 runs in five of six games. They swept games against Regis Red, Ridgeview Academy and Denver East. With the wins, they moved up to fourth place in the Legion B Denver Division 1 league. The Boys in Blue are now 12-3 in Legion ball.

“Defensively we’ve been looking excellent,” Grinstead said. “Our offense could improve from about 50 percent producing consistently to 80 percent.”

Wojtkiewicz thinks his team’s improvement will be noticeable on and off the field.

“We’ve improved since the high school season,” he said. “Everything is a lot better including team chemistry.”

To reach David Pressgrove, call 824-7031, ext. 13, or e-mail dpressgrove@craigdailypress.com

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