Basalt rolls in rivalry game rout
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
ASPEN – As he handed a catcher’s mitt to Nicole Twohig in between innings Thursday, Aspen head softball coach Jeremy Haack attempted to lighten the mood.
“Keep your head up, and have some fun out there,” he uttered.
It was difficult to heed such words on this day. Visiting Basalt erupted for eight runs on five hits in a third inning in which it sent 12 to the plate, starter Alexa Aitken faced one more than the minimum in five economical innings and the Longhorns rolled, 13-0, in a game shortened because of the mercy rule.
“I think this weekend, we kind of got the bugs out,” Basalt head coach Bruce Matherly said. “We got a lot more focused. Our hope was that it would carry over to today. I think it did.
After an inconsistent showing during the season’s first few weeks, the Longhorns (6-3) picked up three wins against 4A schools – including a 6-3 defeat of Palisade, a team they had already lost to twice – at Friday’s and Saturday’s Eagle Valley Invitational. Aitken said she found her rhythm on the mound in Eagle County. It showed Thursday.
The senior, a first-team all-state selection in 2008, retired the first two batters she faced on two pitches. She didn’t allow a hit until the third when, with two outs, Aspen’s Andree Hornburg lined a single over second baseman Abby King’s head.
Aitken struck out just three but walked none and induced seven ground-ball outs. She even snared a come-backer in the bottom of the fifth.
“I was really trying to hit my spots … and hit the corners and mix speeds. I know how difficult that can be for a hitter,” Aitken said. “I know the defense has my back all the way.”
So did the bats. After struggling in the first inning against Skiers starter Liz Baty, the Longhorns broke a scoreless tie with three runs in the second. Abby King opened the frame with a single up the middle, then Jessie Anderson drew a walk; both came around to score on Lane Calabro’s RBI groundout and Kira Selucky’s ringing single to left. No. 9 hitter Connor Adams later drove in a run with a bunt to Baty.
Basalt broke things wide open in the third, when eight of the first 10 players to bat scored. King drove in a run with a double to the gap in right, and Jamie Matherly drove in Aitken with a single through the left side of the infield.
Four runs scored on passed balls, and King crossed the plate on an infield error. Aspen (3-10) committed three fielding miscues in the inning and five in the game.
“We knew we were up against a tough opponent,” Haack said. “They’ve got a good team, but I’m proud of my girls. … They hit the ball, but they hit it right to them at times.
“We’ve got a ways to go, but we’ve got a chance to get better.”
Calabro and Adams hit RBI singles in the fourth to pad the lead. The Longhorns’ six through nine hitters scored seven runs and amassed five hits.
“We’ve got kids all up and down the lineup that can hit,” Matherly said. “The thing is, you don’t want to have any soft spots in the lineup.”
Basalt’s offensive output was more than enough to back Aitken, who struck out the final two batters she faced.
“To be able to win three games in a row [last weekend] … was major confidence,” she said. “We still can’t walk onto the field and be cocky. Anything can happen. We have to play hard and play our best game.”
The Longhorns host Grand Junction Central’s junior varsity squad for a doubleheader on Saturday. Aspen does not play against until Sept. 26, when it will host two games against Gunnison.
The two valley rivals, who split last year’s two regular-season meetings, square off again Oct. 1 in Basalt.
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The third weekend of play begins Thursday and runs through Sunday with the Bantam B, Squirt A and Squirt B divisions. Because of safety protocols, spectators aren’t allowed.