AHS baseball nearly upsets No. 1 Olathe
Entering the Class 3A Western Slope League District Tournament as longshots, saddled with the last-place seed, the Aspen High baseball team responded by coming within one base of upsetting No. 1 Olathe on the road Tuesday night.
The game ended 6-5 when an Aspen baserunner, representing the tying run, was gunned down at home plate.
“We outplayed them,” Aspen coach Rick Ryan said.
On paper, it would appear the Skiers did. Aspen out-hit Olathe 11-5 and played error-free defense behind pitcher Matt Fox.
But Aspen had to play catch-up all game, erasing deficits of 2-0 and 5-2 to come within one run – 6-5 – entering the top of the seventh and their final at bat.
With Skier Max Redmond on second and two outs, Carter Budwell, who went 3-for-4 with 3 RBIs, singled to right field, setting Redmond in motion. Ryan, coaching third, waved him home in an attempt to tie the game, but the throw from right beat Redmond to the plate, ending the game and the Skiers’ season.
But the fact the Skiers hung tough with Olathe, which is now 17-3 and ranked among the top teams in the state, represented a moral victory for Aspen. After all, Aspen won only four games all season, finishing 4-14.
“I’ve never been prouder of a one game effort than I was [Tuesday] night,” Ryan said. “That was a look into our future right there, that’s how we can play; we’re really going to have a bright future.”
Aspen will lose only two players to graduation, meaning loads of young talent, including five freshman, will be back next season.
The hard play of the inexperienced Skiers shocked and impressed Olathe, Ryan said.
“They were pretty stunned, their coach was flabbergasted after the game,” he said. “That was really cool, we didn’t play like we were intimidated at all.”
Ryan added that the depth of the returning talent coupled with the pitching development of Fox, a junior, suggest brighter days in Aspen’s future.
“The real story for us was how Matt Fox is becoming a great pitcher for us,” Ryan said. “He’s just a real surprise for us, he’s someone we can count on.”
Aspen players plan to compete with several other high school teams from the Western Slope in the coming summer league, which begins in June.
In other action in the first round of the Class 3A Western Slope League District Tournament, Basalt lost to No. 2 seed Eagle Valley 12-1 on the road Tuesday.
Steve Benson’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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