New coach and new pitching staff has Longhorn softball excited about season | AspenTimes.com

New coach and new pitching staff has Longhorn softball excited about season

For the past two seasons, the Basalt High School softball team had to lean primarily on the arm of Morgan Ash. And while she got them to the doorstep of the state tournament last fall, it wasn't always easy or fair for her to have to carry the team by herself.

The difference this season with Ash having graduated — she is now a student at Baylor University — is the Longhorns will have a bevy of pitching options in her place.

"Once they caught up to her, it was challenging," BHS coach David Miller said. "That's been the challenge. We are going to be different than we have in the past, where we were primarily a one-pitcher team. We are going to pitch by committee this year."

Basalt, which enters its first season under Miller, could have as many as four pitchers to choose from this fall. Sophomores Maya Lindgren, who attends Roaring Fork High School, and BHS student Grace Schrock look to split a starting job for the Longhorns, with a pair of freshmen filling more of a junior varsity role.

The hope is this depth will lend the team that little extra it needed a year ago to make a deeper run into the postseason.

"Even though our pitching is younger, they are good. They are stepping up and really helping the team," said senior third baseman Payten Spencer, a Glenwood Springs High School student. "I think we have a good chance this year. We may not win every game, but if we play like I hope we will, I think we'll have a good chance in league."

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Miller, a retired pastor, was a volunteer coach for the Longhorns last season after moving to the area from Georgia to be closer to his daughter, who lives in Glenwood Springs. His daughter, Beth Jackson, is a former college softball player who has also volunteered with the Basalt team for a handful of years.

Miller is a former athlete that has coached numerous sports and decided to take the Basalt job more as a hobby. He replaced former coach Marianne Gardner-Smith, who stepped away after three successful seasons in charge.

"I don't need a job, but really enjoy kids and love the game," he said. "I am enjoying it. There are always surprises with anything. I enjoy the girls. I think we've made good progress. I think we are just ready to play. We are getting kind of antsy."

The Longhorns last made the state tournament in 2016 and entered the 2017 season with high expectations, considering they had so many returners. However, they limped to a subpar 11-9 record and were bounced early in regional play, ending what many of the players considered a disappointing season.

"I'm very excited to see how this outcome is going to be. New coaches, and all these girls are here to play," said senior infielder Afton Larsen, who also is a Glenwood student. "Last year was kind of a letdown, I guess. We should have been at state, but came up a little short. Hopefully we can get back there this year."

Basalt has four seniors in Spencer, Larsen, Sequoia Kellogg and Morgan Needham. Kellogg attends GSHS and Needham goes to Roaring Fork. The team also has a strong junior class, led by veteran Zoe Vozick of Basalt. All told, BHS has eight returning lettermen from a season ago.

As long as the young pitchers can hold their own, the team believes it can push for a return trip to state. The journey starts with the season opener Thursday against Aspen.

"I like the coach and I like all the girls on the team and I'm excited to see where we go with this," Kellogg said. "I think with the new coach there are going to be new expectations to shoot really high and try our hardest."

acolbert@aspentimes.com