Aspen High baseball rallies in seventh to beat Basalt in season opener, 9-4 | AspenTimes.com

Aspen High baseball rallies in seventh to beat Basalt in season opener, 9-4

A season ago, the Aspen High School baseball team had a tendency to melt down and lose games in the late innings. To open the 2018 season with the opposite being true is a good change of pace for the players and coaches alike.

"It's refreshing, but that's what we've been practicing for," AHS senior Tyler Clayton said. "We've been running extra practices so we can keep this mental endurance toward the end of games."

The Skiers opened their season on Tuesday at Crawford Field in El Jebel, beating rival Basalt 9-4 in what was officially a home game for the Longhorns. Aspen trailed by two runs entering the seventh and final inning before exploding for seven runs to close out the contest.

"That's why you play seven. That's the fun part about it. To Basalt's credit, they didn't give up and it was a tough pitching matchup to start off," Aspen coach Dave Fuentes said. "It was fun to see the boys not give up and finish. So it was good."

The game started as a pitching duel between Aspen senior Jamison Fuentes — who in November signed to play for NCAA Division II Adams State University in Alamosa — and Basalt senior Raul Torres. The game was scoreless through three innings until AHS scored the game's first run in the top of the fourth inning.

"We didn't expect a lot from the bats today, because we had two really strong pitchers," said first-year Basalt coach Nate Grinzinger. "It's really difficult to see kids throwing close to 80 in early season, first game of the year. It was good to see both teams got to battle and get themselves in a situation where the nerves spike up a little bit."

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Down 2-0 heading to the bottom of the fifth inning, Basalt rallied with two runs. Junior Trevor Reuss got the Longhorns on the board with his RBI single and later scored the tying run after a wild pitch.

After holding Aspen scoreless in the top of the sixth inning, Basalt added two more runs in the bottom of the frame to take a 4-2 lead. The runs were courtesy of throwing and pitching errors by the Skiers.

"We had our heads down for a little bit after we made an error or two, but we were able to pick it up again, which is essential," Clayton said. "It's stressful, but it's also really fun. Just going back and forth, you know it's a good rivalry."

The seventh inning belonged to the Skiers. Clayton had the key double early in the inning and would soon after score the game-tying run with no outs yet recorded. Charlie Guilander scored the game-winning run off a Fuentes sac-fly and Aspen continued to add on runs that proved unneeded.

The Longhorns went down in order in the bottom of the seventh inning.

"We didn't kick the ball around much. They hit the ball in some pretty tough positions to field," Grinzinger said of Aspen's offensive outburst late in the game. "They had one nice hit into the gap. Just some good opportune moments for them. I'm pretty happy with what our squad did today."

Jamison Fuentes finished the contest with 13 strikeouts, five walks and two hits allowed in 5 2/3 innings. Clayton earned the win in relief. Torres pitched five innings, allowing four hits while striking out eight batters with three walks.

Basalt (0-1) is scheduled to host Moffat County on Thursday. Grinzinger, a longtime baseball coach in the valley who once coached at Aspen, was only hired days before the season started, replacing Bud Hickman.

Aspen (1-0) next is scheduled to play Saturday at Middle Park. The Skiers only lost one senior from a season ago and expect to improve upon their 7-12 record from last spring.

"We've got a pretty experienced senior class and some good underclassmen that are all contributing," Dave Fuentes said. "Our goal is for everyone to play their role and put together one win at a time. That's all you can do."

acolbert@aspentimes.com