Rams pitch past Skiers
Post Independent Staff
The Aspen Times
Aspen CO Colorado
CARBONDALE – If Clay Gross and Alex Rascon pitch in the playoffs like they pitched on Saturday, Roaring Fork will be a frightening team to face in the 3A baseball playoffs.
With Gross hurling a no-hitter and Rascon narrowly missing a no-no, the Rams made quick work of visiting Aspen on a sunny and warm Saturday in Carbondale.
Rascon pitched the Rams to a 10-0 win in the 4 1/2-inning opener. One out away from a no-hitter in the fifth inning, he surrendered a bloop single to Alec Lowell.
“I kind of just gave it up to their No. 9 guy,” Rascon, a senior, said. “I just hung a curveball and he stuck it out there. We still won, though.”
Gross followed it up by confounding the Skiers in Roaring Fork’s 13-0 nightcap win, which also lasted just 4 1/2 innings due to the mercy rule. Afterwards, the junior didn’t even realize he’d thrown a no-hitter.
“I guess,” he said. “I wasn’t really paying attention. I was just focusing on the next batter.”
Both of the Rams’ starters struck out seven in their final regular season outings.
The district round of the 32-team 3A playoffs are slated for Saturday. Eight four-team districts will be seeded by the Colorado High School Activities Association on Wednesday.
Roaring Fork (15-4 overall, 14-4 in the 3A Western Slope League) has its playoff berth wrapped up. And the Rams like their chances at districts.
“We’re a good baseball team,” coach Tim Nieslanik said. “It’s been fun to watch and fun to be a part of.”
And, with Rascon and Gross anchoring the pitching staff, Roaring Fork’s best baseball might be yet to come.
“I feel like we’ve been a good 1-2 punch,” Rascon said. “I’ve enjoyed it. It’s been fun watching him throw. He’s been throwing it really well.”
The Rams have plenty of offense, too. And it was on full display Saturday.
Hits by Gross, Rascon, Johnny Nieslanik and Shea Nieslanik sparked a four-run first inning in the opener.
Roaring Fork tacked on another run in the second and then five more in the third to make it 10-0. A two-run double by Rascon and two-run home run by Jake Strack-Loertscher fueled the rally.
In Game 2, the Rams erupted for eight runs in the first inning. The first eight batters reached base in the inning.
Gross had a single and double that drove in a run apiece in the inning and Strack-Loertscher, Johnny Nieslanik, Shea Nieslanik and Trenton Reeds all collected RBI hits.
The Rams batted around again in the second, plating five runs.
Rascon drove in two with a double that bounced over the right-field fence and the left-handed hitting Thomas Cerise smoked a liner into right field for a two-run triple. Shea Nieslanik also brought home a run with a double to left field.
Up 13-0 after two innings, Gross took care of the rest.
Aspen wrapped its season with a 4-14 record, both overall and in 3A WSL play. Seniors Taylor Mayer, Lamont Gross, Vinny Johnson, Loagan Garrison, Christian De La Cruz, Rex Christensen, Dane Christensen and Lowell all played their final games for the Skiers.
“We’ve got a great group of kids,” Aspen coach Nate Grinzinger said. “I’ve had a lot of fun hanging out with these guys. There are a lot of people I’ll remember, a lot of good personalities.”
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