GYPSUM - Devils softball manager Robert Ellsworth has often said, "If ifs and buts were candies and nuts, we'd all have a merry Christmas."
That adage certainly applied in Palisade's 23-3 win over the Devils on Tuesday in the 4A Western Slope opener for both teams at the Gypsum Sports Complex. Before the visiting Bulldogs blew this one wide open with 17 runs in the second inning, Eagle Valley had the bases loaded in the bottom of the first with Rylee Ellsworth at the plate.
The Eagle Valley shortstop drilled the ball, but right at Palisade pitcher Danica Delahoz. The hurler speared the line drive and doubled off Ally Zehring from third for a hard-luck ending to that frame.
"She put the ball into play. That's all you can ask," said Robert Ellsworth of Rylee. "That's what we're working on all season, cranking up the (hitting) machine. Like Roberto Clemente said, 'You're going to be more successful if you swing the bat three times.'"
The what-if scenario gives the Devils (1-2 overall and 0-1 in league) hope that they can contend in the tough 4A Western Slope, but Tuesday was Palisade's day.
"It was good to see," said Palisade coach Nicole Zuniga, whose team improved to 1-1 on the season. "They've been working hard on hitting. They worked the (strike) zone well and made some good swings. They were also running bases well."
And a lot. Palisade sent 20 batters to the plate in the second. The Bulldogs hit the ball hard on numerous occasions, but Eagle Valley probably could have helped its cause with some better defense.
"We've got to take it to practice and work harder, so that next time we don't make those same mistakes," third-baseman Zehring said.
Nonetheless, the Devils managed to plate some runs in the bottom of the second. Kenzie Cooper and Kearstan Sanders rapped out singles and Hannah Laisure drove in the former with a hit. Allie Sands kept the rally going with an RBI single and Cody Osteen slammed a double off the left-field wall to cap it.
"We just talked to the ladies that no matter what the score, 3-2, 10-9 or today's score, you want to improve," Robert Ellsworth said. "If you're a pitcher and strike out every batter or you go 4-for-4 at the plate, you can still improve. No one will remember the score in 50 years. They'll remember your character and how you held your head."
Palisade is at Deke DeCrow Invitational this weekend at Colorado Mesa University, while the Devils are at Rifle on Tuesday.
"We're really excited," Devils senior Megan Osteen said. "We've been (competitive) with them the last few years. It should be a really good game."
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934 or firstname.lastname@example.org.