Basalt Longhorns hold off Rams |

Basalt Longhorns hold off Rams

Jon MaletzThe Aspen TimesAspen, CO Colorado
Paul Conrad The Aspen Times

EL JEBEL The bats finally came to life, and Basalt’s eight-game skid is history.With two outs in the top of the seventh Wednesday against Roaring Fork, and their lead trimmed from eight runs to two, the Longhorns (5-8 overall, 2-7 3A Western Slope) were clutch when they needed it most. John Komula lined a single into left to score two and Zack Shultz followed with a run-scoring single. The added insurance gave Basalt the cushion it needed to outlast the Rams, 13-9, and pick up its first win in nearly a month. “I think this is what we needed,” Longhorns coach Steve Martin said. “Winning cures all evils.”

After opening the season with four consecutive wins, Basalt struggled through an eight-game slide in which it was shut out four times and amassed a total of just 11 runs. With bitter weather inundating the valley and hard-throwing Jake Kinney on the mound, things didn’t figure to turn around Wednesday, either. Kinney struck out five of the first seven batters he faced to open the game and appeared to be cruising. Then Shultz led off the third by lining the first pitch he saw – a belt-high fastball – into left field. “Steve told me I had one chance to get a hit or he was going to bunt me because we haven’t been hitting,” Shultz said.The first five Longhorns to bat reached base as Basalt amassed four hits and took advantage of one walk and four errors to take a 5-0 lead. Scott Hoffman lined a pitch to the wall in left to score two runs, then Connor Rakowski followed with an RBI single to right. Hoffman and Rakowski both came around to score when third baseman Wyatt Zetterholm mishandled a sharp grounder. The Longhorns sent 11 men to the plate in the inning.”You walk one guy, then have four errors – that’s what’s been happening to us,” Roaring Fork coach Steve Kinney said. “We were forced to play catch up.”

Rakowski’s two-run triple sparked Basalt’s three-run fourth, and the lead ballooned to 8-0. Kinney hit leadoff hitter Gustavo Hurtado, then walked Hoffman to start the inning – both came around to score. Shultz, meanwhile, struck out five and did not allow a Rams hit in the first three innings. Roaring Fork broke through with a run in the fourth on Matt Alberico’s single, then jumped right back into the game with four in the fifth.Shultz, meanwhile, struck out five and did not allow a Rams hit in the first three innings. Roaring Fork broke through with a run in the fourth on Matt Alberico’s single, then jumped right back into the game with four in the fifth. Alberico led the way once more with a two-run single, and the Rams took advantage of two Basalt miscues. Jack Strack-Loetscher’s two-run single keyed a three-run sixth as Roaring Fork trimmed its deficit to 10-8. Elation had turned to angst in the Longhorns dugout. “I was real happy the way we battled back because we haven’t been hitting well,” Steve Kinney said. “But Basalt came out hitting.”

Kinney struck out Hoffman on a rare curveball to open the seventh then, after hitting Rakowski and surrendering a single to Travis D’Anna, he threw a fastball by Ostrander to record the second out. Fletcher Richmond drew a walk, and Komula strolled to the plate with the bases loaded.With one swing, Komula erased four previous at-bats in which he struck out twice, popped weakly to third and reached on an error. Shultz, who singled home a run in the sixth, added another with a stinging liner off newly-inserted pitcher Alex Rascon. Shultz and Rakowski each had three hits. Shultz scattered 10 hits and struck out nine in a complete-game effort. Rascon tripled to lead off the bottom of the seventh and scored on Basalt’s fifth error of the game. Shultz rebounded, striking out Mike Black and inducing a fly ball to center to end the threat and the game.For the first time since March 20 against Aspen, the Longhorns have something to cheer about. “We fell apart a little at the end, but we were never behind,” Shultz said. “We always had something to worth with.”

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