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AHS baseball opens at Paonia today

Aspen Times Staff Report

While spring hasn’t arrived yet in Aspen, baseball season is getting under way statewide.

The Aspen High School baseball team – with just two outdoor practices under its belt to date due to snow – opens its season today at an eight-team tournament in Paonia. Aspen, a talented but young team, will face Paonia today, followed by two more games Saturday.

“They’re all real solid teams at the tournament, and Paonia has won three of the last five state championships,” Aspen coach Rick Ryan said yesterday. “It’s a tough draw, but we know that going in. We’re looking at it like preseason.

“Athletically, we’re looking good,” he continued. “When we catch up with everybody else – the other teams have been outside for a while now – I think we could be a pretty good team this year.”

For the last month, Aspen has been taking batting practice, pitching and catching and taking infield at the Aspen Middle School gym. On two occasions, the team practiced outside in El Jebel.

“We have a pretty good setup for indoor baseball,” he said, “but it’s not like being outside on a diamond.”

Aspen returns nine starters from its 5-12 club last season, Ryan said.

“On our varsity of 13 guys, we have eight sophomores and two freshmen,” he said. “We’re talented but very young.”

Junior ace Eddie Monge will return to lead Aspen’s pitching staff, while senior first baseman Jeremy Young, a three-time all-league selection, and sophomore shortstop Josh Lackey return to shore up the infield, Ryan said.

“We’ve got a new player with us too who looks real solid,” Ryan said of sophomore Phil Salazar, a standout player with the AHS soccer and basketball teams who’s likely to play third base and pitch for Aspen. “He looks like he’s a hitter, from the first time I saw him.”

Aspen opens its league schedule next Thursday at Meeker. “Next Thursday is when it counts,” Ryan said.

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