Bears top Sailors in doubleheader

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— The uniforms and players were identical for both halves of Friday afternoon's softball doubleheader between Steamboat Springs and Rifle.

But the performances were drastically different.

In the first game, Steamboat was buried by Rifle's relentless hitting game. The Sailors never really threatened in the 18-2 blowout, which was played at Vanatta Field.

"We didn't aggressively field the ball," Steamboat coach Donna Ryan said. "We let too many bloopers drop, and they turned them into runs."

The Sailors struggled at the plate, as well. The team finished few hits but couldn't string them together until the fourth inning, when Kirsten Ryan opened with a triple. Teammate Darcy Hornstein beat out a throw to first that sailed over the Rifle fielder's glove. By the time the Bears had tracked down the ball, Hornstein had rounded the bases and scored another run for the Sailors.

But outside of that one inning, Steamboat never really found a rhythm or a way to score on Rifle pitcher Megan McWilliams.

McWilliams, one of several top Rifle pitchers, finished with four strikeouts and just two walks.

But a different Steamboat Springs team showed up for the second half of the doubleheader.

The same players, who had struggled to make plays in the first game, suddenly found a way to make some noise.

In the top of the first inning, Steamboat took advantage of several Rifle mistakes to create two runs without getting a hit.

A hit, followed by a couple of walks and a few wild pitches, allowed Steamboat to take a 2-0 lead before Rifle (the home team in the second game) even stepped to the plate.

The Bears responded quickly by putting up four runs in the bottom of the first, and by the third inning had built an 11-4 lead against the Sailors.

But a Steamboat run in the fourth set up an explosive fifth inning for the home team.

A hit and a couple of walks loaded the bases for Steamboat's Anya Salzgeber. She made the Bears pay with a base-clearing double that ignited the Sailors bench and led to a five-run inning.

But down the stretch, the young Steamboat team made too many mistakes and couldn't keep pace with the more established Rifle program. The Bears collected three runs in the fifth and four more in the sixth to seal an 18-11 victory.

Despite losing both games, Ryan thought the doubleheader was a positive experience for her players.

"This game was a real boost for our players," Ryan said. "Now we know that we can play with a program like Rifle."

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