Longhorns topple Skiers in season finale | AspenTimes.com

Longhorns topple Skiers in season finale

Jon Maletz

Basalt shortstop Jennifer Baxton tags Aspen Highs Sara Nininger at second base Thursday at Basalt Middle School. Basalt defeated Aspen, 6-1. (Mark Fox/The Aspen Times)

Basalt had everything riding on its final softball game of the regular season Thursday against rival Aspen.A win and the Longhorns would keep their postseason aspirations intact. A win and Basalt would avenge a loss to the Skiers on Sept. 27 in which the Longhorns let a comfortable four-run lead slip away.With the season on the line, Basalt starter Darbi Scherer avenged a sub-par performance in Aspen and the Longhorns bats came alive, collecting 11 hits in a 6-1 victory.Basalt (6-4) secured its position in second place in the Western Slope, behind Gunnison. The Longhorns will find out later this week if they are tied with Cedaredge in the final standings.

“That’s the way we know we can play,” Longhorns coach Bruce Matherly said. “When we hit on all aspects, we’re a real solid team. It was nice to win, and I think this puts us in a district tie with Cedaredge. I told the girls this was for all the marbles, and they really played well.”Scherer surrendered just seven hits and one run in a complete-game victory. Scherer, who walked nine and hit two Skiers in the first matchup of the season, was consistently around the zone, making Aspen earn its way on base. None of the batters Scherer walked in the game came around to score. Scherer was at her best with runners on base. When the Skiers loaded the bases with two outs in the fifth following an infield error and consecutive walks, Scherer jammed Aspen No. 3 hitter Carly Magill to induce a flyout to shortstop. After a Grace Siegle walk and Brittany Britt’s single up the middle led off the sixth, Scherer once again had an answer. She fielded ground balls from consecutive batters and immediately turned and fired to third to catch the lead runners. She stranded two Aspen runners in the inning when the Skiers’ No. 8 hitter, Nena Sivess, grounded to second baseman Laura Wille.”I knew I had to come out and perform,” Scherer said. “I kept my composure today, which has been one of my weak points. I knew the fielders can’t do anything when I walk batters, so I took it upon myself to throw well.”

Aspen pushed across its only run of the game in the fourth when Magill led off with a bunt single, stole second and was driven home on a single by Siegle. The Skiers stranded eight runners in the game.While the Aspen bats struggled against Scherer, the Longhorns were locked in against Britt. Basalt recorded 11 hits in the game, including five in a three-run third inning.Five of Basalt’s first six batters reached base with hits in the third. Katy Mulchay – two-for-three with two extra-base hits in the game batting ninth in the order – drove in Jacqulyn Everett with a triple to deep center. Heather Condez scored Mulchay on a squeeze play and later scored on a Scherer single to left. Scherer was three-for-four in the game.Condez’s RBI single in the fourth gave the Longhorns a 4-1 advantage. Basalt would pad its lead in the bottom of the sixth when the Skiers defense imploded. Aspen committed four errors in just two plays, leading to two unearned runs.”Those plays didn’t cost us the game, but it certainly made our job tougher,” Aspen coach Ed Zane said. “The score wasn’t indicative of the way we played. The kids knew this game wasn’t gonna get them in districts, but they didn’t roll over. Basalt played well.”

Despite being challenged multiple times – Scherer induced 11 ground outs – the Longhorns defense committed just one error. Wille made an acrobatic diving catch behind first base in the fourth, and Scherer caught Taylor Schlepp off third base on a perfectly executed first-and-third play in the seventh to preserve the five-run lead.”When you see plays like that pay off, you know these kids really get it,” Matherly said. “It all came together today and I’m proud of them.”The top two teams in the Slope standings advance to next week’s districts. Cedaredge and Basalt split the season series. The Longhorns let a 12-3 lead over the Bruins slip away in game one of their doubleheader Tuesday, but won Game 2. If Basalt is left out of the state tournament, it will point to its performances in tight games. The Longhorns lost five one-run contests.Jon Maletz’s e-mail address is jmaletz@aspentimes.com

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