State softball: Basalt nabs 12th seed | AspenTimes.com

State softball: Basalt nabs 12th seed

Jon Maletz
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

Jim Ryan/Special to The Aspen TimesThe Longhorns' Katie King slides safely into second during Saturday's 9-6 victory over Grand Valley in the 3A District 5 tournament at Basalt High School.

BASALT – The Basalt softball team unquestionably is the class of the Western Slope. Whether the Longhorns can distinguish themselves in postseason play remains uncertain.

October trips to the Front Range in 2008 and 2009 largely were forgettable; Basalt was outscored, 34-0, by Faith Christian and Platte Canyon in two lopsided, mercy-rule shortened playoff openers.

A shot at redemption comes Friday.

The Longhorns, seeded 12th in this year’s 16-team field, will square off with No. 5 Platte Valley at 10 a.m. Friday in Aurora. Should it advance, Basalt likely would face fourth-seeded Limon later Friday.

“It helps us that our four captains are seniors. … We’re going to lean on those guys and their experience,” Longhorns head coach Bruce Matherly said Tuesday. “They do have a quiet confidence that I really appreciate. When they get down, they don’t worry. They know they’ve got the capacity to come back, and they’ve been able to do that a couple times this year.”

Basalt’s latest rally came in Saturday’s district tournament game against Grand Valley. The Longhorns, who one week earlier secured a third consecutive Slope crown and a postseason berth, appeared sluggish in the opening innings against the visiting Cardinals, who at one point led 6-2.

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The Basalt bats finally came to life in the bottom of the fourth, when the Longhorns plated seven runs. They went on to win, 9-6, in their final playoff tune-up.

“We’re down 6-2 … and you start looking around and thinking, ‘What’s going on? We need this game,'” Matherly said. “I’m kicking myself. I don’t think I had them really ready to play. … The only thing that saved us was our hitting.

“The hardest thing is to get a team playing at a relatively high level and keep them there. You don’t want to take a game off or a practice off, especially coming into [playoffs].”

Basalt (14-5) is riding a 10-game win streak into Friday’s contest. During that stretch, which started Sept. 17, the Longhorns have scored 10 or more runs six times.

They are batting .396 as a team.

The road gets tougher from here, however. Platte Valley (15-6) has won its last 10 games, too, and finished first in a Patriot League that is sending five teams to the playoffs – Brush, Valley, Lyons and No. 1 seed Berthoud.

Matherly said he knows little about Platte Valley; the Broncos have posted few statistics online.

“When we played Platte Canyon [last season], I studied the team in detail,” the coach said. “They had the Marshall sisters, who were tremendous hitters. One of the sisters led the state in RBIs and extra-base hits, and we decided to pitch around her. It came back to haunt us. Their No. 2 hitter hit a three-run home run, and their No. 5 hitter hit a three-run home run.

“[Going in blind] might not be a bad thing.”

In order to pull off an upset – or two – Friday, Matherly said it is imperative that starting pitcher Katie King keeps the ball down, induces ground balls and avoids walks. His defense must also make all the routine plays; Basalt committed just three errors in last season’s playoff opener against Platte Canyon, but “at this level, [mistakes] become glaring,” Matherly said.

If they can get the bats going, Matherly said the Longhorns could surprise some people.

“If they are disciplined at the plate and put the ball in play, I like our chances,” he added.

“It’s exciting to get here, but hey, let’s go beyond that. … Let’s take it to the next level.”

jmaletz@aspentimes.com

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