AHS baseball drops opener to Paonia
The Aspen High School baseball team dropped its season opener against Paonia 16-9 Friday, though the Skier team showed promise in one of its first outings of the season on a real diamond, coach Rick Ryan said yesterday.
AHS sophomore Phil Salazar hit a 400-foot, two-run homer in the fifth inning off Paonia’s left-handed ace to rally Aspen back to within four runs before Paonia, a team that’s won three of the last five 3A state championships, put the game away after seven innings were complete.
Aspen senior Jeremy Young, a three-time all-league first baseman, knocked in three runs for Aspen, going 3-for-5 at the plate against Paonia.
“We were down 13-1 at one point before we rallied,” Ryan said. The rally included a three-run fourth inning and a four-run fifth. “We had a tough weekend. We didn’t play badly, but we didn’t win either. People couldn’t believe we put up nine runs against [Paonia’s ace pitcher]. He throws real hard.”
Aspen’s ace, junior right-hander Eddie Monge, pitched two innings against Paonia and fared well, Ryan said. Sophomore center fielder Nick Farrell, last season’s 3A steals leader with 23, worked four innings on the mound for Aspen.
“We’re trying to make a pitcher out of [Farrell], and he had a rough time,” Ryan said.
Aspen expected to play three games at the Paonia tournament, though two games Saturday were shortened to five-inning scrimmages due to foul weather.
Against Montrose, a larger 4A school, Aspen lost 6-4. “I think if we had played seven innings, we may have caught them.”
Saturday afternoon, Aspen’s leadoff man, Farrell, knocked the very first pitch out of the park against Olathe, though Aspen’s production fell off afterwards in a 7-1 loss.
“Nick Farrell was it,” Ryan said. “We hit six or seven balls to the warning track, and I think that’s what happens when your leadoff guys starts the game with a homer – everyone’s swinging for the fences.”
Despite getting beaned three times, Young went 5-for-8 on the weekend, and Monge, a utility man when he’s not pitching, was 6-for-10 at the plate. Sophomore shortstop Josh Lackey went 5-for-9, Ryan said.
“We performed much better than we have in the past for our first time out,” Ryan said of the Skier team, which posted a 5-12 record last year. “We’re definitely going to hit this year. If we can get some pitching, I think we’ll be OK.”
Aspen opens its league schedule Thursday at Meeker, a team that Aspen beat 19-7 last season and 15-5 two years ago, Ryan said.
Meeker “is a solid team,” he said. “They don’t make a lot of mistakes, but we’ve owned them in the past.”
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