Softball: Strong showing for Basalt at state | AspenTimes.com

Softball: Strong showing for Basalt at state

Jon Maletz
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

Basalt Morgan Young pitches against Burlington during the first day of Colorado Softball State Championship at Aurora Sports Complex. Aurora. CO. Friday. October 19, 2012. Hyoung Chang, The Denver Post

The Basalt softball team’s recent trips to Aurora have been hasty and largely forgettable.

This time, however, the Longhorns stuck around for a while – and turned some heads in the process.

They erupted for five runs in their first at-bat in Friday’s state tournament opener against Burlington and rode the stellar pitching of Morgan Young to a surprise 7-1 victory that clinched the program’s first quarterfinal berth.

Tenth-seeded Basalt even gave 3A’s No. 2 seed a scare at the Aurora Sports Complex. It led Holy Family by three runs until an untimely string of walks and errors led to a five-run inning and ultimately, a 10-3 loss.

The result could do little to temper Longhorns head coach Bruce Matherly’s enthusiasm, however.

“The thing we took away from all of this is that the girls believe they can play with these guys,” he said. “No one came away feeling intimidated or like they were in over their heads.”

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Basalt sure looked comfortable against No. 7 Burlington, which entered Friday with a 19-1 record. District 5 player of the year Brittany Driscoll, Shelley Briscoe and Morgan Young led off the top of the first inning with singles, then Jordan DeCrow and Maddie Nieslanik followed with doubles.

By the time the third out was recorded, the Longhorns had plated five.

“It couldn’t have started any better,” Matherly said. “We really were hitting on all cylinders.”

So was starter Young.

The junior left-hander surrendered a double to the Cougars’ first hitter and then a sacrifice fly. She was efficient if not dominant from there, walking just two, striking out five and keeping a Burlington lineup that averaged more than 14 runs per contest in the regular season off the board.

“She wasn’t dominating, but she has so much movement on her pitches and keeps hitters off balance,” Matherly said. “She made them put the ball in play, … and we played some decent defense.

“It was a good game, and the girls were determined. As coaches, we looked at Burlington on paper and who they played and thought we had a really good chance. Everything worked out in the end.”

Basalt (15-8) got off to another strong start in Game 2 against hard-throwing Holy Family starter Nicole Gardon. After a scoreless first, DeCrow reached on a single to open the second. Kaity Johnson followed with a single, then Carina Capobianco – one of two seniors on the roster – launched a three-run home run.

“She hit a bomb,” Matherly said.

The Longhorns could muster little offense the rest of the way, however.

“The level of pitching Holy Family put out there was such a contrast from what we saw from Burlington; it was like what you see from really good 5A teams,” Matherly said. “We typically struggle more against slow pitching than we do fast, and we were hoping it would take a while to get the timing down, but once we did, we’d be able to hit her. It was tough.

“We fought all the way through. We never gave up and kept battling.”

Unfortunately for the underdogs, the Tigers hit their stride. They led off the bottom of the second with a home run, then pushed across two more to square the game.

After generating one run to assume the lead in the third, Holy Family took advantage of a wild Young and a porous Basalt defense to blow things open in the fourth.

“We never got our heads down, but against a team like Holy Family, you have an error or two and they’re magnified,” Matherly said. “They’re such a good hitting team and are going to score some runs, so if you do anything to help them and put runners on, it’s really going to come back to haunt you.”

Driscoll relieved Young in the fourth and largely held the Tigers at bay down the stretch. The Longhorns could not close the gap, however.

With its entire rotation and four All-Conference first-team selections (Driscoll, Young, DeCrow and Nieslanik) returning, expect Basalt to be in the mix again next fall.

“They were excited, and they should be. We had a great year, and it was a very respectable showing down at state,” Matherly said. “I think we surprised a lot of people.”

jmaletz@aspentimes.com