Softball: League crown for Basalt | AspenTimes.com

Softball: League crown for Basalt

Jon Maletz
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

Jon Maletz/The Aspen TimesLonghorns starter Brittany Driscoll delivers a pitch during Game 1 of Saturday's doubleheader at Basalt High.

BASALT – Head coach Bruce Matherly called it a milestone. Saturday’s effort also was a declaration.

The Basalt softball team once again is the class of 3A District 5.

The Longhorns (11-6) were dominant on a warm afternoon in the midvalley. They erupted for 16 runs in a Game 1 runaway, then rode the pitching arm of Morgan Young and timely hitting to secure both a

10-0, Game 2 victory and a fourth league title in the past five seasons.

“This was a little different than usual – and a lot less stressful,” Matherly said. “They were unbeaten in league, too, and the last four or five years it’s always come down to this doubleheader. They’re a great program.

“My main goal is to push this program up, make it better each year. I think we’re doing that.”

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The Longhorns logged three consecutive conference championships from 2008 to 2010 before relinquishing the crown to the rival Cowboys last fall. The step backward largely was attributed to the graduation of a talented senior class.

It didn’t take long to reload.

“We got the ball rolling again last year, and now it’s all coming together,” said senior Shelley Briscoe, who was sidelined with an injury for last year’s games in Gunnison – 16-6 and 12-1 defeats. “It’s really cool to see. This year has been a lot different. We’re all really good friends, and we have a lot better chemistry.”

That rapport – along with coveted pitching depth and roster flexibility – was on display Saturday. Brittany Driscoll struck out 10, went

4-for-5 and scored three times in a first game in which the Longhorns broke things open with six runs in the fourth and five in the sixth.

Maddie Nieslanik helped fuel an explosive offensive attack with three hits and five RBIs in the 16-4 rout.

Morgan Young took the mound in Game 2 and kept the momentum going. After working around a leadoff walk and two infield errors to escape the top of the first inning, she took control. Young retired 12 of the next 13 batters, the majority on lazy fly balls.

The Cowboys could not muster a hit in five at-bats against the diminutive left hander.

“Our pitching was clearly better than their pitching,” Matherly said, “and I thought the girls hit the ball very well. We put the ball in play up and down the lineup again.”

Basalt plated two – on an error and a fielder’s choice from Keelie Roberts – in the second, then pulled away in the third. Roberts, Maddie Bailey and Jordan DeCrow each hit RBI singles, Nieslanik drove in one with a double to left center and two others came around on errors for the Longhorns, who sent 10 to the plate and produced six hits in the frame.

Pinch-hitter Bailey Strobel ripped a double down the left-field line in the fourth to drive in two more.

Young finished off the productive day by inducing a weak groundout, a pop-up to shortstop and a strikeout in the fifth.

“They’ve always been our biggest rivals, so it’s really great to be able to finish this way,” Briscoe said. “We approached this like any other game. We didn’t even speak about a league championship at all. We just wanted to stay consistent.”

With the wins, the Longhorns ran their conference mark to 7-0 with one District 5 game remaining Tuesday in Aspen (4 p.m.).

More important, Basalt is one of six that will host a four-team regional Oct. 13. Two from each regional will advance to the state tournament.

“I look at this as just one of the milestones we want to reach throughout the season,” Matherly said. “We want to make state and make some noise when we get there.

“We’re excited, and this was nice, but we’re trying to keep it tempered. We know that if we don’t show up to play, we’re going to get our butts kicked. We want to continue to stay focused and do the little things to give ourselves a chance.”

jmaletz@aspentimes.com