Fresh off regional title, Basalt baseball hopes to keep surprises coming at state
Tyler Sims and Alonso Silva, the only two seniors on the Basalt High School baseball team this spring, led the preseason workouts. Unlike some of their teammates, neither played football, which occurred in the one-off Season C this year because of the pandemic.
This left the seniors to guide a group of mostly freshmen in the weeks before official practices began, and considering the general youth and inexperience the Longhorns had, there were reasons aplenty to keep the expectations conservative entering the season.
“There was a lot of unknown, that was for sure,” Sims said. “We were down at Crown Mountain every day after school in the cages, hitting baseballs and weightlifting after school. I personally felt really good. It’s the most confident I’ve ever been coming into the season.”
That youth may have hindered the team some early on, but the talent and confidence eventually rose to the top. And, after a somewhat surprising run to a regional championship on Monday, Basalt finds itself in the Class 3A state tournament, where it will compete in the eight team, double-elimination affair beginning Friday just outside of Longmont.
“I don’t think anybody expected us to be here. So for us, it’s an opportunity to play loose and leave it all there and just do the best we can,” Basalt coach Dan Markoya said. “They’ve really come a long way in the short amount of time we’ve had. For the coaches, we couldn’t be more proud of how they played.”
Basalt went 11-5 overall in the shortened regular season and finished a mere fourth in the Class 3A Western Slope League behind Moffat County, Gunnison and Delta. The Longhorns were the No. 21 seed in regional play that only included 24 teams, but shook up the bracket with a pair of big upsets.
In the first game at regionals, Silva’s pitching carried Basalt to an 11-4 win over No. 12 Alamosa and sent BHS into the winner-take-all regional final.
“We felt pretty good about playing against Alamosa,” Markoya said. “Really thought they were a pretty similar team to us and it was really just going to depend on who could hit the ball. We hit it pretty well that game.”
No. 5 seed Gunnison, the region host, hardly played its best game against Basalt in the final, walking 20 BHS batters. The Longhorns took advantage and used a nine-run outburst in the fifth inning to eventually win, 19-10.
The Cowboys had swept the Longhorns in an early-season doubleheader, but Basalt was feeling good entering regional play about a possible rematch.
“We really wanted to have another chance at those guys, just because they caught us early and they swept us early,” Markoya said. “We just felt like we didn’t play our best games against them last time. It was good to get another crack at them.”
The seeds were reshuffled for the state tournament. Basalt (13-5) is the No. 5 seed and will play No. 4 The Classical Academy (10-6) at noon on Friday at Frederick High School. TCA was only the 20 seed entering regional play and knocked off No. 13 Bennett and No. 4 Bayfield en route to its regional title.
The Basalt-TCA winner moves onto the 2:30 p.m. game on Friday against the winner between No. 1 Lutheran (17-0) and No. 8 Colorado Academy (12-4). The Basalt-TCA loser won’t play again until 9:30 a.m. Saturday against the Lutheran-Colorado Academy loser in a game played at nearby Niwot High School.
“I wasn’t expecting us to get this far. Obviously I was hoping for it. You are always hoping for it,” Sims said. “I’m really hoping a lot of people don’t expect a lot out of us and we can come out and open some eyes, turn some heads.”
The state tournament is a two-weekend affair. The semifinalists should be determined by Saturday evening, with those teams returning to complete the tournament the following weekend, June 25 and 26.
The Class 3A championship game is scheduled for 10 a.m. on Saturday, June 26, at Frederick High School. A second game, if needed, would be played right after. The double-elimination format carries over from one weekend to the next.
“We just tried to get better every day. Really all the credit goes to the kids,” Markoya said of getting to state. “We don’t really know them and they don’t really know us, so we are going to try and show up and play some good baseball and see what we can do.”
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