Baseball: Hotchkiss takes two in Basalt
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
BASALT – Basalt players, coaches and fans anxiously tracked the towering fly ball as it drifted down the right-field line Saturday.
Had Tanner Banc’s shot cleared the fence for a grand slam, the Longhorns would’ve taken a 5-3, fifth-inning lead in Game 2 and been well on their way to salvaging a split with 3A Western Slope power Hotchkiss.
It wound up sailing a few agonizing feet right of the foul pole.
“That could’ve been the biggest hit we’ve had all year,” Basalt head coach Mike Hoffman lamented. “That could’ve been the clincher, something that helped us get some spirit in the dugout.”
Instead, it was yet another narrow miss on a lost afternoon for the Longhorns. After a humbling 12-1, mercy-rule-shortened loss in the opener, Basalt hung with the Bulldogs for much of Game 2. Things unraveled down the stretch, however; Hotchkiss struck for two runs in the sixth, then broke things open with an eight-run seventh fueled by three Longhorns errors. The visitors cruised to a 14-5 victory, securing the sweep over a Basalt squad that tallied just four hits in 12 innings.
“Hotchkiss was very tough,” Hoffman said. “They started changing pitchers on us, and the kids did not adjust as quickly as they needed to.”
The Longhorns could muster just two hits and one run in a decidedly lopsided first game. Edgar Macias kept the Basalt bats at bay, striking out 10 in four innings of work. He then handed the ball to Jacobe Galley, who struck out two to clinch the win.
Jaime Rodriguez took the mound in Game 2 and kept the momentum going. During one stretch in the first, second and third innings, the hard-throwing right-hander struck out seven of eight Longhorns.
He faced the minimum through 32⁄3 innings before Basalt finally broke through. Banc reached on an infield error and scored on a passed ball, trimming the home team’s deficit to two.
Rodriguez also paced the Bulldogs (13-2 overall, 12-2 conference) at the plate. He singled off Banc and scored during Hotchkiss’ two-run first, led off the third with a solo home run to left center and scored on an error in the top of the fifth, extending the lead to 4-1.
Galley, who relieved Rodriguez in the fifth, struggled mightily with his command, walking four of the first five batters he faced. After giving Mark Bartow a free pass with the bases loaded, Galley quelled the threat by striking out Tucker Jenkins and inducing a fly out from Banc.
After the Bulldogs tacked on two more runs in the sixth courtesy of an RBI single from Devan Ruper, who later scored when a teammate was caught in a rundown, the Longhorns (5-9, 5-8) attempted to mount one last rally.
Johnson Emerson scored on a passed ball and Nick Calabro hit an RBI ground out in the sixth, trimming the deficit to 6-4.
This one slipped out of reach in the next half inning, however. Hotchkiss sent 12 to the plate in the seventh, erupting for eight runs on five hits. Rodriguez dealt the biggest blow with a three-run triple to the wall in right center.
Three errors in the frame – including two dropped fly balls – plated two more Bulldogs.
Basalt committed six miscues in Game 2.
“Tanner had a great game and was really into it. The team was behind him until that last inning,” Hoffman said of his starter, who was relieved after 62⁄3 gutsy innings in which he threw more than 100 pitches. “They were giving up on those balls, not really searching for them or asking for help. If you can’t see it, you have to ask for help.”
The Longhorns, who have all but been eliminated from postseason contention, will look to rebound at 4 p.m. Tuesday, when they visit Coal Ridge.
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Winter sports practices were officially allowed to begin last week, Jan. 18, after the Colorado High School Activities Association was given a variance from the state’s health officials. Games were allowed to be played starting this week.