Basalt’s Johnson stings Grand Valley | AspenTimes.com
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Basalt’s Johnson stings Grand Valley

Jon Maletz

Basalt starter Rory Johnson was well aware that swinging an aluminum bat during cold weather is less than desirable. He used it to his advantage. In Wednesday’s game with Grand Valley, in cold temperatures and snowfall, Johnson made the Cardinals hitters’ hands sting and their lives miserable. “I couldn’t get loose because of the cold, so I just tried to throw the ball down the middle and get some balls on the ground,” Johnson said. “They really didn’t hit a ball hard off me the whole game.”Johnson allowed one earned run on two hits – one was an infield single – in five innings, and Basalt (1-2) scored in all but one of its at-bats en route to a 9-3 nonconference victory.”Considering it’s just our third game and fourth or fifth time outside, we played better than expected,” first-year Basalt co-head coach Rick Ryan said. “Rory went a little longer than expected, but we never got that one inning where we could open up any kind of gap. He has good mechanics and could go forever if you let him.”The plan was for Johnson to go two to three innings in order to save his arm for Saturday’s doubleheader at Olathe. But after Basalt jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the bottom half of the first, Grand Valley responded with three runs to tie the game one inning later.After walking the first batter in the second, Johnson balked him over to second, then surrendered a RBI double to the gap in left center. Two more miscues by Johnson – a passed ball and an errant pick-off attempt that sailed wide of first baseman Darren Duroux – led to two Cardinals runs. Johnson pitched around three walks in the fifth inning by inducing a well-timed groundout, then a lazy fly ball to second base. He struck out the final batter he faced and left with the game well in hand. Johnson said that, despite the workload, he’ll be ready Saturday. All told, Johnson induced 10 ground ball outs in his five innings of work. Third baseman J.T. Donovan took care of seven put-outs during that stretch, and eight total.”During the third and fourth inning, it was so white out that it was impossible to see the ball,” Donovan said. “Rory did a good job keeping the ball on the ground for us. Darren was tremendous at first catching balls around the bag.”Johnson also went 2-for-4 at the plate, with three RBIs. He had a run-scoring single to right in Basalt’s three-run first. He was down in the count in the fourth but protected the plate by connecting on an outside fastball; he dumped the ball into shallow right field, scoring two. The Longhorns scored three in the inning, and one each in the second, third and fifth. Zack Southward was 2-for-2 with two singles and two walks. Duroux drove in Basalt’s first run of the game when he lined a pitch from Cardinals starter Matt Thompson to the wall in deep left center.While they collected just nine hits as a team, the Longhorns displayed patience at the plate and drew six walks. They also applied pressure on the Grand Valley defense by setting multiple runners in motion; they stole six bases.Right-hander Gustavo Hurtado pitched two scoreless innings to close out the game and Basalt’s first win of the season.”It’s difficult to get the experience and rhythm because we’ve played the least amount of games in the state,” Donovan said. “I’m not surprised our team played well. We’re trying to start something new here in Basalt, and we’re starting to work as a unit.”Jon Maletz’s e-mail address is jmaletz@aspentimes.com


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