Basalt softball looks to snare another Slope title
August 26, 2009
BASALT – Their anonymity is gone.
The Basalt softball team’s meteoric rise from fledgling program to conference power was punctuated by two thrilling wins over perennial power Gunnison during the final weekend of last season. Now, a squad once affectionately referred to as the Baby ‘Horns because of its youth and dearth of experience has a new title: Reigning 3A Western Slope champions.
In just their fourth season at the varsity level, the Longhorns set a school record for wins (12) in 2008 and were ranked in the state’s top 10 for a stretch. Their starters had a .437 batting average and three players – Alexa Aitken, Jamie Matherly and Kenzie Kuhn – garnered all-state consideration from the Denver Post.
Those impressive statistics could improve this fall with the entire roster returning. That’s a thrilling proposition for Basalt fans – and a frightening one for opponents.
“I think the girls know they’re not going to sneak up on anybody this year and that they have a big target on their backs with other teams in the league,” Longhorns head coach Bruce Matherly said Wednesday.
“The most important thing is to not get complacent and think all we have to do is show up. If we take that approach, we’ll get it handed to us.”
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Basalt knows that feeling well. Last season was cut short by a humbling 23-0, first-round playoff loss to Faith Christian.
“I felt like we went out with a thud last year,” Matherly admitted. “I think it’s important that this year we send [seniors] Abby [King], Alexa and Monique [Rodriguez] out on a high note. The girls know they have the potential to do that. They have to stay focused and have to continue to push their game up to higher levels of play.”
The Longhorns will have plenty of opportunities to do that. Their difficult schedule includes games against much of the 4A Western Slope and even some Grand Junction schools.
Basalt opens play in Saturday’s Aspen Invitational, where it will face 4As Delta (9:30 a.m.) and Palisade (11:30 a.m.).
“I think the girls see the challenge,” Matherly said. “No one wants to be embarrassed in a game. When that competitiveness starts to flow, hopefully we’ll hold our own.”
The pieces appear to be in place to make another run.
Aitken, a first-team all-state selection, struck out 79 batters in 68 innings and compiled a 3.60 ERA and 10-3 record in 2008. In addition, she set a school record with 22 steals, drove in a team-high 24 runs and finished with a .586 batting average – second only to Jamie Matherly (.689), who led all of 3A.
In addition to anchoring the infield with stellar defense at shortstop, Matherly, an all-state honorable mention, paced the team with an .889 on-base percentage. She piled up 31 hits in 45 official at-bats, drove in 21 and stole 17 bases.
Kuhn, also an all-state honorable mention, threw out 12 runners in 2008 to tie Katie Mulcahy’s 2006 school record. She, Aitken and Matherly were first-team all-conference selection the last two seasons.
Additionally, all-conference honorable mentions King and Lane Calabro return to both solidify the infield defense and provide offensive depth. King, a second baseman, stole 10 bases and hit .318 last fall, while Calabro, a junior who switched from first to third base as a freshman, batted cleanup and drove in 15 runs.
Among those who didn’t garner postseason recognition were current sophomores Connor Adams and Katie King, who shared leadoff duties and combined to score 49 runs in 2008. Adams batted .514 and King .491. First baseman Jessie Anderson also pitched in with a .366 average.
Bruce Matherly predicted 2008 would be the season his Longhorns would “bust out.” Now, with that mission accomplished, the coach is eager to see if they have staying power.
Saturday should provide some early answers.
“It’ll be a real test for us, and we’ll see where we are,” Matherly said. “Hopefully we’ll show up and play well.”