Bright future for ‘baby’ Longhorns softball | AspenTimes.com

Bright future for ‘baby’ Longhorns softball

Nate PetersonAspen, CO Colorado

Paul Conrad/The Aspen Times

BASALT Their coach called them the “baby” Longhorns, but by season’s end, Basalt softball’s nine underclassmen starters were playing more like veterans than varsity newcomers.The group of six freshman and three sophomores more than exceeded expectations in 2007, going 10-10 overall and earning a second straight trip to the district round of the 3A playoffs.Included in that record was a 5-5 showing in 10 nonleague regular season games against upper-division competition, including a 5-2 win over John F. Kennedy, a 5A school that was the top seed in its district tournament.For its 3A Western Slope runner-up finish, league coaches had no choice but to recognize Basalt’s young nucleus of talent. League bylines stipulated the Longhorns’ finish earned them five all-league nominations, three of them for the Slope’s first team.Sophomore pitcher Alexa Aitken, freshman catcher Kenzie Kuhn and freshman shortstop and relief pitcher Jamie Matherly earned first-team honors, while sophomore second baseman Abbie King and freshman third baseman Lane Calabro were honorable mentions.After getting her first taste of varsity action as a freshman, Aitken came into her own as a sophomore, finishing with a 7-9 record and 79 strikeouts during the regular season. She also led the ‘Horns in batting average (.556) and stolen bases (28), the latter being a new team record.

Also a Rocky Mountain News 3A honorable mention, Aitken added 18 strikeouts in the postseason, pitching a combined 17 innings in three games. The Longhorns fell twice to ninth-ranked Lyons (4-1, 14-0) and used timely baserunning and hitting to pull out a 6-4 win over Sheridan.”She really set the pace for us on defense, just the way she pitched,” Matherly said. “In the past, she really pitched hard. I think her philosophy was to try to blow it by people. This year she did a better job of using different speeds and changing locations, and she was much more effective.”Catching all those pitches was Kuhn, who threw out nine runners – one shy of the team record -and hit .396 to go with 12 stolen bases. Kuhn, along with freshman center fielder Morgan Armbruster, commuted daily from Glenwood Springs – a commitment that impressed Matherly, especially during two-a-days in August.”She carpooled with Morgan, and they didn’t miss anything,” he said. “That really blew me away. They were there rain or shine.”The coach’s daughter had a great individual year herself, anchoring the Longhorns’ infield while hitting .349 as the leadoff hitter and stealing 21 bases. Matherly committed just three errors in 20 games (the lowest on the team) and led the Longhorns in scoring average – scoring nearly 85 percent of the time she got on base.

“I think the most impressive thing was just to be as steady as she was in the field,” Bruce Matherly said. “With Abbie at second, that made us really tough up the middle. They were both impressive.”King, like Aitken, earned her stripes as a freshman before a breakout season this year, finishing with the second-highest average on the team (.389).Calabro made the move from the right side of the infield to third base to shore up a hole and also excelled at the plate, batting .386 in her cleanup spot and adding 14 stolen bases.”She made the transition from the playing first and second to third, and it was seamless,” Matherly said. “She also batted cleanup as a freshman, which isn’t an easy thing to do. She’s going to be a really good hitter in the next couple of years.”Combined, Basalt’s first four hitters – Matherly, Kuhn, Aitken and Calabro – had 75 stolen bases.In just its third varsity season, Basalt also set new records for wins (10), stolen bases (121), runs (159) and average runs per game (9.4).

Matherly stated the obvious when asked about what lies ahead for the Longhorns.”The future looks really bright if the girls stay together and stay committed to improving their game,” he said. “Next year could be the year we bust out.”Nate Peterson’s e-mail address is npeterson@aspentimes.com