Softball: Basalt readies for regional play | AspenTimes.com

Softball: Basalt readies for regional play

Basalts Afton Larsen fields a ball against Delta on Tuesday.

Two weekends ago, the Basalt High School softball team defeated Delta — coming back from five runs down to win 6-5 — to clinch its first district championship since 2013. This weekend, Basalt hopes to punch its ticket to state for the first time since 2014.

"It is a big weekend," Basalt coach Marianne Gardner-Smith said. "If we beat Sterling, then we'll go into the state tournament with an automatic bye the first round, because then we are the district champs and the regional champs."

For winning its district, the Longhorns were rewarded with the opportunity to host Saturday's Class 3A, Region 8 tournament in Basalt. It will be a three-team affair between No. 8-seed Basalt (15-4 overall), No. 9-seed Sterling (10-9) and No. 24-seed Gunnison (3-16).

Two of the three teams will advance to next week's 3A state tournament in Aurora. For one of those teams to be Basalt, the Longhorns just need to win once on Saturday.

"We'd really like to win the first one, because the first one just sends us straight through," Gardner-Smith said.

Sterling and Gunnison will play at 10 a.m. Saturday in Basalt, the winner playing the Longhorns at 12:15 p.m. Should Basalt win that game, Basalt is headed to the state tournament. With a loss in the 12:15 game, Basalt would play again at 2:30 p.m. with its season on the line.

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Basalt enters with the advantage in terms of records, but Gardner-Smith did point out that Gunnison and Sterling each have a pitcher ranked in the top two in terms of strikeouts in 3A.

"It could be a pitching dual," Gardner-Smith said of the 10 a.m. game. "Everyone needs to come. They need to leave their bad news bears at home and they need to come to play. And they need to bring their bats. When our bats work, there is nobody that can hit with us."

Gardner-Smith also said Thursday that the Longhorns had seven players earn all-state honors in 3A. Three players — junior first baseman Megan Nieslanik, junior catcher Kate Schrock and junior pitcher Morgan Ash — were named to the first team.

Earning honorable mention honors in 3A from Basalt are sophomore shortstop Afton Larsen, sophomore third baseman Payten Spencer, senior second baseman Carly Schimp and junior right fielder Emily Hendershot.

Gardner-Smith was nominated as 3A's softball coach of the year.

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