Basalt High softball is feeling the pressure of high expectations for 2017 |

Basalt High softball is feeling the pressure of high expectations for 2017

Basalt High School softball practice from Friday, Aug. 18, 2017.
Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times |

2017 Basalt softball schedule

Tuesday vs. Delta

Thursday at Meeker

Aug. 29 at Aspen

Aug. 31 vs. Gunnison (DH)

Sept. 5 at Cedaredge (DH)

Sept. 8-9 at TJ Tournament

Sept. 16 vs. Montezuma-Cortez (DH)

Sept. 19 vs. Meeker

Sept. 22 at Rifle

Sept. 26 vs. Aspen

Sept. 30 at Faith Christian/Evergreen

Oct. 3 at Delta

Oct. 5 vs. Rifle

Morgan Ash knows her way around the various kinds of pressures an athlete can feel. As the Basalt High School softball team’s senior pitcher, she experiences the variety on a game-by-game basis.

And coming off a breakthrough season compared to the year prior, the experienced Longhorns are feeling plenty of pressure entering the 2017 season, mostly because of high expectations.

“It’s a lot of pressure, but it’s exciting pressure. It’s good pressure, and not scary pressure,” Ash said. “Right now I’m just trying to encourage everyone to keep practicing hard. I do expect us to do very good, especially since we have fun when we are together. I expect us to do well whether we win or lose.”

The Longhorns had won at least 13 games four seasons in a row heading into the 2015 season, the first under coach Marianne Gardner-Smith, when the team finished 8-11 and missed the postseason. Basalt bounced back in a big way last season, going 16-6 overall, winning its first district championship since 2013 and making the state tournament for the first time since 2014.

As the No. 12 seed in the Class 3A tournament, Basalt lost 15-4 to No. 5 seed Lamar in the first round.

En route to the state tournament, the Longhorns had a flair for the dramatic, winning multiple games in come-from-behind fashion last fall.

“It’s nice knowing we are able to come back,” senior catcher Kate Schrock said. “We had a lot of comebacks last year. Especially being a very offensive team, we know we will eventually get our bats to the ball and make it back.”

Basalt lost only one varsity senior off last year’s team and brings in a talented freshmen class. The extra depth could pay big dividends, especially at pitcher where a year ago Ash was essentially the only option. She’ll still be asked to carry the team again in 2017, but finds comfort knowing there are more options in the dugout behind her.

“It’s a really big relief, and not just for me, but for the people who are behind me. I think it was hard for everybody, not just me,” Ash said of being the team’s only true pitcher a year ago. “It’s a very positive thing going into this season knowing we have strong pitchers who can step up.”

The Longhorns open their season on Tuesday with a 4 p.m. home game against Delta. Delta also qualified for the state tournament last year, losing in the first round as the No. 14 seed. BHS beat Delta twice a year ago, the first coming 11-8 in extra innings in the season opener, the second a dramatic 6-5 win at home on Oct. 4 that clinched the district championship. Both teams are receiving votes in the preseason polls for 3A.

Even with the added pressure, Basalt believes it can meet the high expectations.

“We should be OK,” Gardner-Smith said. “Actually, we should be better than OK.”

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