A fresh start for Aspen’s softballers | AspenTimes.com

A fresh start for Aspen’s softballers

Nate Peterson

Aspen High senior Taylor Schlepp worried that there wouldn’t be enough players to field a softball team this fall.

At the end of the 2005 season, the Skiers were down to nine players ” four of whom were seniors. The future of the program looked grim.

So when 15 players reported to the softball fields at the Aspen Recreation Center last week for the start of fall practices, Schlepp couldn’t help but smile. Five of those players are freshmen, while another four have never played organized softball. But Schlepp isn’t at all worried about the lack of experience.

She just wants the team to have fun this fall, and not worry about wins and losses.

“I think that’s huge, just having a lot of fun,” Schlepp said. “I only starting playing my sophomore year, and I know how far I came just in that first season. … I mean, it would be really nice to do well my senior year, but I’m not too worried about winning a lot of games.”

The same goes for 10th-year head coach Ed Zane, who relishes the chance to teach the game to a bunch of new faces, as well as instruct some returning players in new positions.

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“It’s always fun with new players,” Zane said. “We’re definitely going to miss last year’s seniors, but it’s always fun getting new faces. It’s a lot nicer having a lot more girls this year.”

Zane’s biggest offseason project was Schlepp, who will take over on the mound for last year’s senior ace Brittney Britt. Schlepp’s best friend, senior Reghan Mahaffey, also switched positions ” from first base ” to replace perennial all-league catcher Carly Magill.

Both players have huge shoes to fill. Britt, an all-league selection, started nearly every game last fall for the Skiers and finished with a 4.96 ERA and 41 strikeouts. Magill led the Skiers offense with a batting average of .480 and 17 stolen bases, and was the best cather in the league with 15 runners caught stealing. She also never missed a start in four years. Both kept Aspen competitive in a number of games last fall as the Skiers struggled to a 3-5 finish in the 3A Western Slope, good for fourth out of five teams.

When Zane asked Schlepp to make the move to pitcher in the offseason, she willingly accepted ” on the condition that her coach work with her to improve her accuracy and velocity.

Since February, Schlepp, Mahaffey and Zane have logged countless hours together getting Schlepp ready for her first start this weekend when the Skiers host a three-team tournament with Eagle Valley, Cedaredge and Basalt.

“I feel pretty good,” Schlepp said. “I haven’t really pitched to many batters yet, so I don’t know how that is going to go with the ball flying back at me. Last year I was really, really slow and I was having a hard time getting it over the plate. I’ve improved a lot since then.”

The other returnees from last year’s team include seniors Nicole Taylor, Ashley Ryan and Traci Clapper, as well as juniors Sara Nininger and Grace Seigle.

Seigle is penciled in to start at shortstop, while Nininger is expected to play in the outfield. Taylor will play in both the infield and the outfield, Zane said. As for the other starters, Zane said he’ll continue to tinker with his line-up to find what works best. He did say that newcomer Taylor Buzbee, a junior, will most likely start at first base.

“Nothing is set in stone yet,” he said. “As we get into the season, we’ll see how things go. It’s a rebuilding year. We’ve got a lot of freshman, and a lot of the girls have never played before. It should be fun. You can already see that a lot of these girls are going to be good.”

Nate Peterson’s e-mail address is npeterson@aspentimes.com

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