Longhorns ready to ‘bust out’ this fall | AspenTimes.com

Longhorns ready to ‘bust out’ this fall

Jon Maletz
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

Jordan Curet/The Aspen Times

BASALT ” The “baby” Longhorns are all grown up.

Expectations are sprouting, too.

Despite starting six freshman and three sophomores in 2007, the Basalt softball team set the school records for wins (10). After a season in which his Longhorns finished second in the 3A Western Slope and earned a third-straight district berth, head coach Bruce Matherly predicted 2008 “could be the year we bust out.”

He did little to soften that stance during practice Monday.

“We have huge upside in terms of potential, but it’s pretty much up to them at this point,” Matherly said. “It’s all about their expectations and what kinds of goals they’ve set as a team. I told the girls that my expectations aren’t the ones that are the most important. It’s theirs.”

For junior standouts Alexa Aitken and Abby King, it’s league title or bust. The sentiment is hardly boastful.

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The team returns three all-conference players ” Aitken, Kenzie Kuhn and Jamie Matherly ” and all but one starter; center fielder Morgan Ambruster moved to Grand Junction. Aitken’s .556 batting average paced a team that hit .349, scored nearly nine and half runs a game and went 5-5 against 4A and 5A schools.

“We did surprise some people, and we really set the bar higher for ourselves,” King said. “I think other teams will look at us more as competition. We’re ready for it.”

The Longhorns will not be able to sneak up on the opposition this time around.

Consequently, Bruce Matherly said they’ll have to rely on what they do best: Applying pressure at the plate and on the basepaths.

Matherly said his team is ahead of schedule in both areas. After Saturday’s performance in a tournament in Aspen, it’s easy to see why.

Basalt strung together 10 hits and scored 19 runs in the first inning against 4A Palisade’s junior varsity. The Longhorns stole 10 bases en route to a 24-4 victory in a game shortened to two innings because of the mercy rule. Basalt outscored Palisade and conference foe Cedaredge, 31-7, and racked up 24 hits in just seven innings of play.

King went 4-for-5 and Jessie Anderson and Jamie Matherly each added triples. And, in keeping with last year’s trend, the Longhorns got production from a freshman. Katie King went 6-for-7 on the day and has all but secured her spot as the team’s leadoff hitter.

Despite working this offseason to add slap hitting to her offensive repertoire, Aitken’s power didn’t suffer. She homered in both games.

She was just as impressive on the mound, no-hitting Cedaredge for five innings. It was the first time the head coach called pitches.

“It’s a way to share with her what I know about pitching,” Bruce Matherly said. “[The no-hitter] could be dumb luck, but I think this should help. She and Kenzie have been very receptive.”

Aitken is expected to share time on the mound with Jamie Matherly and Katie King, giving Basalt its most pitching depth in years, Bruce Matherly said. While pitching and infield defense are strengths, the coach is still trying to shore up his outfield. He expects freshmen Conner Adams, Katie King, Kara Broughton as well as sophomore Kira Selucky and junior Monique Rodriguez to make an impact.

Bolstering defense will take on added importance in 2008. The Colorado High School Activities Association has revised its district format. It’s likely only two teams from each conference will earn district berths as opposed to three in years past.

The Longhorns aren’t worried about being second. Their eyes are fixed squarely on the Slope’s top spot.

“This is our time to shine and to show we’re not an underdog anymore,” Aitken said. “We’re a player, we’re in the game, and we’re someone you don’t want to handle lightly.”

jmaletz@aspentimes.com

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