Aspen baseball falls in district opener
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
WHEAT RIDGE, Colo. – Two solo home runs in the first inning had underdog Aspen thinking upset.
Reality – and Faith Christian – hit hard, however, in Monday afternoon’s 3A district opener in Wheat Ridge. The second-seeded Eagles piled up 16 hits off Skiers ace Anderson Cole, took advantage of six Aspen errors and cruised to a 14-4 win in a game shortened to six innings because of the mercy rule.
“Going out is always tough, but we ran into a better team,” Skiers coach Nate Grinzinger said. “They could potentially run through state and win the championship. They’re a really solid club.”
Leading the way for high-powered Faith Christian was David Bote, who homered, tripled, doubled twice, drove in four runs and scored three others. The junior entered Monday’s action with a .553 batting average.
“He was incredible today,” Grinzinger said. “He hit a full-count changeup out to the opposite field. That’s impressive.”
No. 31 Aspen (8-12) showcased some power of its own. Taylor Mayer homered on the game’s first pitch, then teammate Chris Dreher went deep off Eagles starter Colby Smith to give the Skiers an early two-run lead.
The start likely conjured up memories of 2009, when the then-No. 27-seeded Skiers upset sixth-seeded Denver Lutheran, 4-2.
Cole was dominant in that victory, surrendering the two runs on two hits in a complete-game effort. The Carleton College (Minn.)-bound senior, who is still working his way back from offseason MCL surgery, was not as sharp Monday.
Neither was the Aspen defense. It committed six errors that led to 10 unearned runs, Grinzinger said.
“In high school specifically, if you give teams extra outs the success of hitters increases,” the coach added. “[Cole’s] pitch count was about 50 higher than it should’ve been.”
A Faith Christian error led to a Skiers run in the fifth that cut the deficit to 7-4. Earlier in that frame, Aspen plated one on back-to-back doubles from Quinn Morehead and Walker Moriarty.
Those were the only hits Smith (6-0), who compiled a 0.91 ERA in 21 innings pitched during the regular season, allowed in the final five innings.
“We started with two home runs in that first inning, but he held his composure and stayed in the game,” Grinzinger said of the sophomore. “You have to applaud him.”
The Eagles scored four runs in the fifth, then three in the sixth to seal the win and improve to 18-2.
“The way our defense has been playing, we didn’t deserve to beat them. Due to that fact, this is easier to swallow,” Grinzinger said.
“We have some really competitive players who expected to win, and some others who feel like we had a successful season. … For these kids to go to the playoffs two years in a row, I don’t think that’s happened in a long time. I commend these guys for getting here again.”
X Games is back for its 22nd consecutive year at Buttermilk Ski Area starting Friday, with many of the world’s best skiers and snowboarders set to compete in halfpipe, slopestyle, big air and knucklehuck over three days.