‘Horns win a wild one over Skiers | AspenTimes.com

‘Horns win a wild one over Skiers

Nate Peterson

Paul Conrad/The Aspen Times

Five lead changes. Twenty-four walks and three hit batters. And one hard-to-stomach nine-run inning.Basalt’s 18-12 win over rival Aspen Saturday at the Aspen Rotary field definitely felt like the second game of the season for both softball teams. But then it didn’t. The pitching was erratic, and there were plenty of fielding errors, yet in terms of resolve, both squads played like a berth in the state playoffs was at stake, not a measly preseason game that doesn’t count in the league standings.”A great game,” said Aspen coach Ed Zane. “It’s the beginning of the season for both teams, so we knew there were going to be some mistakes. But I’m pretty surprised. … It’s better than what I thought it would be, and we’re really coming along.””Aspen’s got a good team,” added Basalt coach Bruce Matherly. “They’ll be fine this year. They’ll be right in the thick of it.”The streaky pitching from both starters was largely responsible for the numerous lead changes.

Basalt freshman Alexa Aitken had a rough start to her first varsity game, walking the first three Skiers batters and surrendering a run off a wild pitch. Aitken settled down later in the inning, however, inducing a fly ball from Aspen’s Reghan Mahaffey, then striking out Chelsea Hanle and Liz Baty – the first two of nine strikeouts.”I was a little nervous,” Aitken said afterward. “Nervous, but more excited, really.”Aspen senior pitcher Taylor Schlepp was also nervous, but didn’t show it in the first inning. Schlepp struck out Basalt’s first batter Abby King, then produced fly-outs from Aitken and Cassie Meyer to end the inning. Through six innings, Schlepp allowed nine runs to Aitken’s 10, and had five strikeouts. In the top of the seventh, however, the wheels completely came off. Schlepp walked the first seven batters and gave up three hits, allowing nine runs. A few fielding errors didn’t help as Aspen watched a possible upset of its downvalley rival slip away.After the game, Schlepp and Zane both shrugged off the forgettable last inning. Schlepp pitched a full five innings in a 9-4 win over Eagle Valley’s junior varsity in the morning, and she said her arm just wore down at the end of the game against Basalt.”It felt good until that one inning,” she said. “My arm just started wearing down a bit. I think mentally I just walked one person and then I just shut down and got really frustrated.” Saturday’s tournament, which featured Cedaredge, Eagle Valley and Rifle was a warmup for the season ahead, Zane said. The games count toward the overall standings, but Basalt’s win over Aspen won’t count in the standings for the 3A Western Slope.

Matherly said the same thing, noting that the silver lining for Aspen is how well it played against his team, not the final result.”These games are somewhere between a scrimmage and a league game,” he said. “They’re really just warmup games. … We just want to play. We’ve gone through two weeks of two-a-days, and the girls just wanted to get out and see where we are. You don’t know it until you play until another team.”Basalt scored three runs in the top of the second, two off a bases-clearing double from junior Emily Peetz. The Skiers rallied to knot the score at 3-3 in the bottom of the inning when Schlepp slapped a two-out double into right field to bring home Hannah Maclean and Nicole Taylor.Basalt grabbed the lead again with four runs in the third, then added another in the top of the fourth. Aspen again rallied to tie with five runs in the bottom half of the fourth, three of which came with two outs when No. 6 hitter Baty roped a double into deep center field that brought home Sara Nininger, Mahaffey and Hanle.Both teams went scoreless in the fifth, before Basalt again took the lead in the top half of the sixth with an inside-the-park home run from Jennifer Baron. Aitken couldn’t protect the lead in the bottom half of the inning as Mahaffey scored on a wild pitch, followed by Baty hitting a single to bring in Hanle.After the nine-run top half of the seventh inning, Aspen tried to rally, but came up short with only two runs. Aitken started the inning by striking out Taylor, then finished the game by getting Hanle to whiff on a third strike.

“I think we did really well for one of our first games of the season,” she said afterward. “We came out pretty strong. I think we could have been a little bit stronger, but the win was great.”Schlepp said she was proud of all her teammates.”I was so proud of all of them, but extremely proud of the new girls who are hitting and fielding well,” she said. “I was really surprised. I was really worried about this game, but they all did well.”Because of a rainstorm, Basalt didn’t get its last at-bats in its morning game against Cedaredge and settled for a 9-9 tie. The Skiers are now 1-1, while the Longhorns are 1-0-1.Aspen next plays a doubleheader at home Saturday against Norwood, with the first game starting at 11 a.m.; Basalt next plays at home against Rifle on Tuesday, Sept. 5.Nate Peterson’s e-mail address is npeterson@aspentimes.com