Basalt High softball beats Aspen in unique season opener without fans, dugouts
Without any spectators and no access to the dugout, it wasn’t softball as one may remember. But, considering the coronavirus pandemic nearly stole the season entirely, putting up with a few new quirks is worth it to get out on the field and play.
“The energy is a little different. Having everybody spread out is kind of counterintuitive to what you are trying to do with softball in terms of getting energy,” Aspen High School softball coach Dave Fuentes said. “But overall from a safety standpoint we are just happy to be out here and following the rules so we can continue to be out here.”
For the time being, nobody outside of the players, coaches, officials and administrators are allowed to be in the immediate playing area. The dugouts, which don’t allow for much social distancing, were roped off, and players were spread out pretty much wherever they could find a spot to sit.
But on the field it looked similar, despite the umpires wearing masks, and it proved to be business as usual for Basalt in a 29-0 romp of AHS in Tuesday’s season-opener at Upper Moore Field in Aspen.
“I feel fortunate that we have some girls who can hit,” BHS coach David Miller said. “We are kind of moving on from last year. We are thankful for last year, but we are trying not to think about last year at all. We are just thankful to be able to play right now.”
The 2019 fall season was one to remember for the Longhorns, which saw them go 21-1 overall in the regular season and earn the No. 2 seed in the Class 3A state tournament. Basalt beat No. 15 La Junta in the first round, 13-12, before losing to No. 7 Sterling in the state quarterfinals, 10-0. Sterling lost to No. 3 Brush in the semifinals, and Brush lost to No. 1 University in the championship game.
Basalt opened the 2020 season ranked preseason No. 8 in 3A, although it dropped out of the top 10 in this week’s updated ranking despite having not played.
Other than standout Zoe Vozick, who hit .667 with 59 RBI and signed to play softball with George Mason, the Longhorns return essentially every key player from last season. This includes senior Grace Schrock, who started in the circle for Basalt against Aspen.
“We found out literally a week before the season actually started, so there wasn’t really any preseason hardly at all,” Miller said of getting ready. “But we’ve been working hard and I think today, we were just trying to figure out who can play where. So we tried some girls at some new positions today and it worked well for us. We are pleased.”
Aspen softball is coming off another winless season. Two years ago, in September 2018, the Skiers beat Gunnison, 19-18 in Delta, for their first win since 2009. AHS hasn’t won since, but has strong numbers this season and a promising group of young players.
“We are really, really young. We got a lot of freshmen and we are hoping to keep them going and developing in the game,” Fuentes said. “They are excited about it. Today was sort of an eye-opener for them to see what softball could be like. So it was kind of fun for them. At the same time, kind of recognizing they got a lot of work to keep going.”
Despite only having about three weeks under her belt as a pitcher, junior Hannah Smith started in the circle for the Skiers.
“She did a fabulous job in there. She put the ball over the plate,” Fuentes said. “They obviously hit the ball, but it’s one of those things where she works really hard and is going to develop into a good pitcher for us. And she is a good leader on the team as well. She is the type of girl you enjoy having out on the field.”
Aspen’s season is set to continue Saturday with a doubleheader against Montezuma-Cortez in Delta, games that are officially home games for the Skiers.
Basalt next plays at Gunnison in a Saturday doubleheader, games two and three of a shortened 16-game season.
“This season is the strangest thing I’ve ever seen,” Miller said. “But we are doing the best we can. We are thankful and grateful to be able to play at all.”
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Chase Kelly, playing at No. 3 singles, won his first three matches before falling to Niwot’s Luke Weber in the final. It was the lone loss of the season for the freshman.