Softball team runs record to 9-0

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— It matters little whether the games are lopsided or close, the Steamboat Springs softball team has found a way to win them all, improving to 9-0 on the season with three weekend wins during a tournament in Rifle.

Steamboat defeated an overmatched Cedaredge squad, 17-7, in the opening game Saturday and found ways to defeat Fruita-Monument's junior varsity, 4-2, and Rifle's junior varsity, 5-4, in extra innings.

This is the first season softball has been offered as a varsity sport in Steamboat.

"They played really well," coach Donna Ryan said. "Against Fruita and Rifle, they were able to maintain a good game throughout and never let down."

The Steamboat and Cedaredge game, on the other hand, was never close. The Sailors jumped out to an early lead, and while the Bruins rallied to score seven runs in the final inning, they never threatened to win.

Steamboat had 17 runs on 12 hits and committed four errors, which played a role in Cedaredge scoring seven runs. Kirsten Ryan pitched two innings, and Leigh Thielen went three.

In the final two games of the tournament, Steamboat found just enough offense to complement its pitching and just enough defense to pull out close wins.

Steamboat and Fruita were even, 2-2, through five innings. The Wildcats brought in a new pitcher in the sixth, and she held the Sailors scoreless in the top of the sixth. Ryan held Fruita scoreless in the bottom of the sixth, sending the game to its final inning.

Jessica Dover got a one-out single on a slow-roller perfectly placed between the mound and the first baseman and managed to make it to third before the play of the game brought her home to give the Sailors the lead.

A wild pitch bounced around the backstop and rolled down the third-base line. Fruita's catcher and pitcher went after the ball, and noticing that Dover wasn't advancing, gave up on the play and left home unattended.

When the pitcher and catcher turned their attention away from the field and started walking back toward their spots, Donna Ryan sent Dover on a sprint toward home.

"I was trying to whisper it," Ryan said. "She just took off. It wasn't going to be close; they weren't going to make it. ... We talked about that play: The play is never over until the ball is back in the pitcher's glove in the circle."

Kirsten Ryan came up one batter later, smacked a triple into the gap and later scored on a passed ball, Donna Ryan said.

Fruita did not score in the bottom of the seventh.

In the game, Ryan pitched seven innings of one-hit ball, striking out seven and walking two.

Steamboat won in similarly dramatic fashion against Rifle. The Bears pulled out to a 3-1 lead through three innings. The Sailors tied the game in the bottom of the third. The score remained tied at the end of the time allotment.

In softball, the tiebreaker calls for the player who made the last out in the previous inning to stand at second, and the offense has three outs to score as many runs as possible.

Rifle pulled ahead, 4-3, on an error that brought in a base runner from third. Ryan retired the next two batters.

Steamboat came up to bat with Stephanie Engle standing at second. She moved to third and with one out, Rebecca Hilterbrand drew a walk, giving the Sailors runners on the corners with one out.

Kelly Labor, Steamboat's leadoff hitter, roped a line-drive single that the first baseman caught, but Hilterbrand returned safely to first.

Ryan came up with two outs and the winning run on first. She wasted little time in ending the game, hitting a two-out triple that scored Engle and Hilterbrand to give Steamboat the win.

On the mound, Ryan pitched 4 1/3 innings, giving up one hit, and striking out 10 and walking one.

For the weekend, Ryan pitched 13 1/2 innings and had an ERA of less than 1.00.

At the plate, Ryan was 8-for-12 with six RBIs, five runs scored, two doubles, two triples and two home runs.

Thielen, who gave Steamboat several strong innings on the mound, went 4-for-5 at the plate. Rachel Hilterbrand was 4-for-8 with two RBIs.

Donna Ryan said her daughter, the Sailors' ace pitcher, pulled a quadriceps muscle in August while placekicking with the Steamboat football team. The injury had been bothering Ryan in softball and soccer, a sport many of the softball players also are participating in this fall, for a while.

She finally looked healthy Saturday, Donna Ryan said.

Steamboat will host its final home game of the year at 4 p.m. Thursday against Rifle's junior varsity at Adams Field at the base of Howelsen Hill. Both games between Steamboat and Rifle's JV have been decided by one run in extra innings.

-- To reach Melinda Mawdsley call 871-4208 or e-mail mmawdsley@steamboatpilot.com

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