Aspen bats explode in blowout win
ASPEN The Aspen baseball team had mustered only six runs during its recent four-game skid. Thursday against Coal Ridge, Aspen resolved a week’s worth of offensive struggles in less than one inning. The Skiers erupted for eight runs in the first inning and six in the second, Matt Beirne threw a one-hitter, and Aspen rolled, 19-1, in a game that ended after five because of the mercy rule. The Skiers (2-4) were outscored 37-6 during a four-game losing streak from March 17-22. They had just two singles off Roaring Fork right-hander Kyle Raaflaub in a 4-1 loss Wednesday. Aspen’s fortunes improved dramatically – and rapidly – against the Titans, as eight of the first nine Aspen hitters to bat in the bottom of the first came around to score.”[Wednesday’s game] frustrated us, but it also motivated us,” Beirne said. “We went through the lineup in the first inning, and that set the tone for the rest of the game.” The Skiers sent 13 to the plate during a first inning in which they racked up seven hits. Jeff LaGrua started things off with a sharp single to right field, then advanced to second on an errant pickoff attempt from Titans starter Darren Mathews. He scored moments later on Taylor Huske’s single to left. After Beirne drew a walk, cleanup hitter Stephen Buzbee cleared the bases on a hit to the wall in right center and jogged into third base standing up. Buzbee added a second two-run triple in the second inning and was 2-for-4 on the day.Dillon Morehead and Anderson Cole added RBI singles in the first, and Aspen capitalized on three Coal Ridge fielding miscues. The onslaught continued in the second. Huske lined a two-run single to left, Beirne drove in a run with a line drive over the head of Titans third baseman Brett Burrows. Buzbee followed with his second two-run triple in as many innings, stretching the lead to 14.All told, seven of Aspen’s nine starters had at least one hit. The first five hitters were 10-for-16 with nine RBIs and scored nine runs.While Aspen’s offense was rolling, Coal Ridge’s sputtered. Beirne retired the side in order in the first and faced just 11 batters through three innings. The Titans hit the ball out of the infield just twice all game – Burrows doubled to lead off the second and flied out to center in the fourth. Coal Ridge’s lone run came on a groundout from leadoff hitter Josh Alsop in the top of the fifth. Beirne, who struck out six, then threw a fastball by Ethan Wilhelm to clinch the win.”Matt’s going to be an important pitcher for us this year,” Aspen coach Matt Lilleberg said. “He only had to worry about throwing strikes. that’s nice for a pitcher every once in a while.” “Towards the end I felt strong, and I knew I had a solid team behind me,” Beirne said. “It wasn’t tough to stay focused, but it’s always much more comfortable when you’re pitching with a lead like that. It’s great to go into the break with a huge win like this.”While Coal Ridge next plays Thursday at Rangely, Aspen won’t take the field again until April 4. Lilleberg said he isn’t concerned about the layoff. He expects Thursday’s victory – Aspen’s first in 3A Western Slope play – to be the jump-start his veteran team needs.”We’re looking for 10 more of these,” he said.”Jon Maletz’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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