Basalt wins opener, settles for split with Titans |

Basalt wins opener, settles for split with Titans

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

EL JEBEL Near-flawless defense helped Basalt pull out a tight first game in Saturday’s doubleheader against visiting Coal Ridge. Miscues in the second cost the Longhorns the chance for a sweep.Travis D’Anna, Blake Scherer and Cory Ostrander hooked up on a relay in the seventh inning of the first game to throw out the potential tying run at third base and preserve an 8-7 victory. But, in the fourth inning of the second, with his team leading, 6-5, pitcher Connor Rakowski dropped an infield fly, allowing two Titans to score. Coal Ridge pushed across two more runs in the inning, one more in the sixth, and starter Jonathan Roessler held Basalt scoreless for the final five innings to salvage a split with a 10-6 win. The Longhorns (6-9 overall, 3-8 3A Western Slope) need to win two of their final three games – they play Aspen on Thursday and a doubleheader with Gunnison on Friday and Saturday – to keep their playoff hopes alive. The Slope’s top five teams qualify for postseason play. A suddenly-resurgent offense gave Basalt a 3-1 first-inning lead in the opener. Freshman Scott Hoffman provided the big blow with a two-run home run, and Rakowski reached on an error and later scored. Travis D’Anna’s RBI single highlighted a two-run third inning.

John Komula, Zack Shultz and Blake Scherer singled in succession to open the fourth. Scherer and Rakowski both drove in runs and another scored on a passed ball to give Basalt an 8-3 advantage.Coal Ridge did not let up, however, scoring three runs in the fifth to pull within two. The deficit was cut to one in the seventh after Darren Mathews singled, stole second, then advanced to third and scored on consecutive passed balls. Basalt wouldn’t let this game slip away. Scherer fumbled a ground ball to second, but quickly redeemed himself. Center fielder D’Anna tracked the ball down in right center, threw a strike to Scherer who fired to Ostrander to cut down the potential-tying run at third. “We had only one error in that first game, and that was the difference,” Basalt coach Steve Martin said.Coincidentally, one error was the difference in the second game, too. A 6-4-3 Basalt double play cleared the bases with two outs in the top of fourth, but Coal Ridge answered with two straight singles and Rakowski walked leadoff hitter Zack Lyon to load the bases. Josh Alsop then popped up to the right side; Rakowski immediately called off first baseman Scott Trantow as he drifted toward the first-base line. The ball bounced off Rakowski’s glove, allowing the tying and go-ahead runs to score.

“I wanted to catch it. I was right there,” said Rakowski, who was 4-for-4 in the second game. “If I don’t do that, we’re out of the inning. It’s one of those things that happens.”Mathews made the Longhorns pay with a two-run single to right to give the Titans a 9-6 lead. Mathews was 3-for-4 with two doubles and four RBI’s.The three-run lead hardly seemed safe. After all, Basalt sent 11 men to the plate and tagged Coal Ridge starter Roessler for five runs in the second inning. Gustavo Hurtado and Scott Hoffman had RBI doubles and Rakowski and D’Anna had run-scoring singles. But Roessler held the Longhorns at bay during the final five innings, surrendering just three hits.”We’ve lost a lot of one-run games, and when you lose a tight one it’s something that takes the wind out of your sails,” Coal Ridge coach Luke LaBaw said. “It’s all about how you respond to things that don’t go your way. … Jonathan stayed with his game even when he wasn’t getting the calls. He really settled in. I think he was throwing harder at the end than at the beginning. He found more confidence.”The Longhorns seemed poised to score in the fifth, when Marty Knous reached on an error and Shultz doubled to center. Ostrander and Hoffman popped out to the infield and Hurtado flew out to shallow center, however, stranding both runners.

Roessler struck out two batters in the seventh, and froze Hurtado with a sharp curveball to end the game.”When you’re 0-19 [last season] and you haven’t been in games like this, it’s hard to know how to win,” LaBaw said. “We’re making strides.”With one week remaining, the Titans and Longhorns are tied for fifth in the Slope, and Aspen is still in contention. Coal Ridge finishes league play with a doubleheader Friday against Olathe.”It is big for us to make sure this next week means something,” Rakowski said. “We know what to do.”

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