Skiers hang on against ‘Horns | AspenTimes.com

Skiers hang on against ‘Horns

Jon MaletzAspen, CO Colorado

Aspens Grace Seigle slides safely into home as Basalt pitcher Alexa Aitken loses the ball in a cloud of dirt during the top of the first inning Tuesday afternoon at Basalt High School. Aspen defeated Basalt, 7-5. (Paul Conrad/The Aspen Times)

BASALT Basalt sophomore Alexa Aitken settled into the box and prepared to set the tone.With her team trailing by two Tuesday against visiting Aspen, she eagerly anticipated Liz Baty’s pitch to lead off the bottom of the sixth. When her fellow sophomore delivered a fastball down the middle, Aitken didn’t miss.She lined the offering hard up the middle for what looked like a sure single. Baty instinctively threw out her glove and snagged the line drive. Aspen (9-5) finally had the upper hand. The Skiers, who dropped the season’s first game between the two rivals, 13-1, scored four runs in the top of the first. They rode Baty’s arm and some timely defense down the stretch to hold off the Longhorns, 8-5.”That play really turned the game,” Aspen coach Ed Zane said. “Alexa is strong on the bases and always scores. To shut her down was deflating for them.”The Longhorns (9-8) pushed across three runs courtesy of a passed ball and two errors in the fourth to pull to within two at 7-5. Baty and the Aspen defense responded. Baty worked around a hit batsman with one out in the fifth by inducing two straight groundouts. On the latter, shortstop Grace Seigle’s throw pulled first baseman Whitney Hubbell off base; Hubbell alertly tagged Jamie Matherly with her glove hand to end the inning. Following her play against Aitken in the sixth, Baty surrendered a single to Kenzie Kuhn. Aspen catcher Sarah Nininger helped out her pitcher when she caught Kuhn stealing on the ensuing pitch. Nininger then leapt from behind the plate to gather a dribbler off Lane Calabro’s bat and fired a perfect strike to Hubbell for the final out.Baty, who retired eight of the final 10 batters she faced, pitched in at the plate as well. Her sacrifice bunt in the top of the seventh moved Seigle to second; Seigle came around to score an insurance run on an errant throw one batter later.”It was nerve-wracking, but we knew we were the better team,” Baty said. “We felt it coming up on the bus, and we felt it out here. Those are the plays I live for.”Three of the first four Skiers to bat scored in a first inning in which they went ahead, 4-0. Hubbell scored on Taylor Bennett’s well-placed groundout to second base, and Nininger and Seigle both scored on passed balls. Nicole Twohig drove in a run with a two-out single to left field. Seigle, who was 4-for-4 with two RBIs and two runs scored, gave Aspen a 5-1 advantage in the second with a double to left. “We dug ourselves a hole, and Aspen played about as well as they can,” Basalt coach Bruce Matherly said. “We had an off game pitching and an off game offensively. We beat Cedaredge 24-4 and 15-2 [Saturday]. Maybe the well was dry.”Calabro hit a run-scoring single to center in the first for the Longhorns, who mustered just four hits off Baty and had their five-game win streak snapped. Baty struggled with her control in a third inning in which she walked three Basalt hitters and hit another. Still, Basalt scored just once, when Aitken trotted home on a passed ball.”In the last game [against Basalt], I lost it and got down on myself,” Baty said. “I forgot about that and had a new start.”The Longhorns pushed across five runs in both the sixth and seventh innings Sept. 25 at Aspen and pulled away. Down the stretch this time around, however, Baty was at her best. She walked none and allowed just one hit in the final three innings and finished with six strikeouts. Six of the nine Longhorns went hitless.”Pitching is the position where you have the most pressure,” Baty said. “I tried to deal with it as best I can. This is especially good for Grace and Sarah who were playing Basalt for the last time. I wanted this just as much as they did.”Jon Maletz’s e-mail address is jmaletz@aspentimes.com