Basalt, Aspen High softball teams both fall in season openers on Tuesday | AspenTimes.com

Basalt, Aspen High softball teams both fall in season openers on Tuesday

The Basalt High School softball team had a knack for the comeback in 2016. In Tuesday's 2017 season opener at home against Delta, the Longhorns went right back to their modus operandi, only to fall short despite a furious rally in the final inning.

"We always play the comeback game when we need to play the get on top, stay on top game," BHS coach Marianne Gardner-Smith said. "It's just hard to be negative when it feels like they did most everything right."

The Longhorns will start the season 0-1 after Tuesday's 11-9 loss to the Panthers. The teams played a pair of thrillers last fall as well, with Basalt winning both games. The first was an 11-8, extra-inning affair in the season opener, the other a district clinching, 6-5 rally later in the season.

Tuesday's game started slow for the Longhorns. Delta led 3-1 entering the bottom of the fourth inning when Basalt finally found its offense. The bats woke up, a small ball approach leading to a string of runs and a 5-3 lead for BHS entering the fifth.

"Our bats have a real hard time hitting a slower pitcher," Gardner-Smith said. "When they changed pitchers, our bats came alive a little bit. But it just wasn't enough."

Delta retook the lead in the top of the sixth inning, capitalizing on a two outs, bases-loaded situation to eventually take a 7-5 lead. Despite a lead-off single by BHS senior Morgan Ash to start the bottom of the sixth inning, Basalt still trailed by two runs entering the seventh.

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The Panthers unloaded their full arsenal during their last at-bats. They loaded the bases with no outs, scoring four runs before Ash, the team's starting pitcher, was briefly pulled from the game in favor of freshman Grace Schrock. Ash would quickly return to the circle, the inning ending after a double play, fly ball catch and throw to home from center fielder Zoe Vozick.

"It's nice to know we have somebody to come in and help Morgan," Gardner-Smith said of the team's extra pitching options this year. "Obviously, we are going to ride Morgan until she tips over, but it's nice to have somebody come in and help her."

Trailing 11-5 entering the bottom of the seventh, the Longhorns staged their rally. A one-out double from Afton Larsen was followed by a wild pitch and RBI single from Megan Nieslanik to make it 11-6. This started a series of at-bats that led to three more runs before time finally ran out on the comeback.

"Like I told them, it's really hard to be negative when I felt like our pitcher did good," Gardner-Smith said. "I felt like our infield was completely solid. We had a couple misreads out in the outfield, but we are starting young girls out in the outfield."

Basalt will next play Thursday at Meeker. The Longhorns and Panthers will meet again on Oct. 3 in Delta. Basalt, Delta and Meeker all received preseason votes to be ranked in Class 3A.

Cedaredge 25, Aspen 8

Also Tuesday, the Aspen High School softball team opened the season with a 25-8 loss to visiting Cedaredge at Upper Moore Field. The game was tied 6-6 after an inning, with the Bruins scoring eight runs in the second and 11 in the fourth to pull away. Aspen will next host Basalt on Tuesday.

acolbert@aspentimes.com