Basalt softball opens state versus La Junta | AspenTimes.com

Basalt softball opens state versus La Junta

Dale Strode
The Aspen Times

The Basalt High School softball team will open the 2013 Class 3A State Softball Championships against La Junta on Friday afternoon in Aurora.

The Longhorns, a blend of players from Glenwood Springs, Roaring Fork and Basalt high schools, qualified for the 12-team state championship bracket in dramatic fashion last weekend. The Longhorns had to come from behind in the first regional game against Faith Christian to earn the state bid.

A tough loss to No. 4 overall seed Valley in the regional final still sent the Basalt composite softball team to the 3A state finals.

"In terms of our seeding, it's about what I expected," Basalt head coach Colin Young said after the Longhorns were seeded No. 9 in the field with a 16-5 reeord.

They will face No. 8 La Junta (13-7) at 12:15 p.m. Friday.

The winner of that first-round game will face No. 1 seed, undefeated Strasburg (21-0), at 2:30 p.m. Friday in Aurora.

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"I figured we would be No. 8 or No. 9, and that's where we are," said Young, who helped guide the Longhorns back to state for the second consecutive year.

Young said the key for the Longhorns at state will be the team's strength all season — hitting.

"We're going to continue on with what has carried us all year – our bats," Young said. "We've got to continue to hit the ball."

While putting pressure on the other team with their offense, Young said the Longhorns will have to play solid defense — an area that saw improvement last weekend at the regionals in Basalt.

"We played better defense," Young said, citing the return to the lineup of starting shortstop Jordan DeCrow.

"It's huge to have her back," Young said. "She affects a lot more than just that position. She affects the whole infield."

DeCrow, who attends Glenwood Springs High School, returned to the Longhorns' lineup last weekend after missing time with a concussion.

"She's a calming presence on the field. She'll be where she needs to be," Young said.

"She controls the running game," he said. "She and Maddie (Nieslanik) have a great relationship … to manage the running game."

Nieslanik, who attends Roaring Fork High School, is DeCrow's cousin and the two have grown up together in the valley.

The return of DeCrow, who snagged a line drive and played flawlessly in the field against Valley, enabled the Longhorns to field their strongest offensive and defensive units, according to the coach.

DeCrow also hammered out two hits in the opening game — a victory that included Nieslanik's game-winning two-RBI double in the bottom of the sixth inning.

The top four seeds among the 12 qualifiers earned first-round byes, like No. 1 Strasburg.

Sterling (17-4), a former Class 4A school that recently dropped to 3A, is seeded No. 2.

Holy Family (18-2) is the No. 3 seed.

And Valley (14-7), with a comeback 5-4 victory over Basalt in the regional final, is the No. 4 seed.

Other first-round games Friday in Aurora include No. 5 Eaton (13-7-1) versus No. 12 Cedaredge (14-7). The winner will take on Valley on Friday afternoon.

No. 6 Burlington (16-5) will take on No. 11 Dolores Huerta Prep (10-7).

That winner will face Holy Family in the second round.

No. 7 Lamar (16-4-1) will play No. 10 Florence (12-9) in the first round.

The winner will play No. 2 Sterling in the second round.

The overall winners will move into the Class 3A state semifinals at 10 a.m. Saturday.

The 3A state championship game will be played at 1:30 p.m. Saturday in Aurora.

All of the state classification softball tournaments will be played at Aurora Sports Park, 15151 E. Alameda Parkway.

With Friday's weather forecast calling for a high in the 50s with a chance of rain or snow, the Colorado High School Activities Association issued a playoff weather reminder this week.

If play is postponed by weather Friday, all games will be moved to Saturday with the semifinals and finals moving to Sunday.

dstrode@aspentimes.com

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