Baseball: Rascon strikes out 13, Roaring Fork outlasts Basalt |

Baseball: Rascon strikes out 13, Roaring Fork outlasts Basalt

Jon Maletz
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
Jim Ryan/Special to The Aspen TimesRoaring Fork's Thomas Cerise slides safely into home as Longhorns catcher Scott

BASALT – Roaring Fork starter Alex Rascon saved his best for last Saturday.

While he admitted he was battling some lingering arm soreness – so much so that he threw his sharp-biting curveball sparingly during the early innings – the senior appeared strong and confident with the game against rival Basalt on the line.

With the tying run standing at second base in the bottom of the seventh inning, Rascon dug deep to strike out two consecutive Longhorns, securing a 4-2 Rams win.

He struck out 13 and scattered nine hits in seven gritty innings.

“To tell you the truth, I had quite a bit of confidence in Alex,” Roaring Fork head coach Tim Nieslanik said. “He made pitches when he needed to and did a fantastic job.”

That was apparent in the final inning. Tanner Banc and Blake Scherer reached on singles, then advanced into scoring position following a lineout to third and subsequent overthrow at first base.

Kyp Schoon, who already had touched up Rascon for two singles, stepped into the batter’s box.

Nieslanik popped out of the dugout and headed to the mound.

“I just told Alex not to give him anything down the middle of the plate,” Nieslanik recalled. “I told him just to hit his spots, and he’d be fine. That’s exactly what he did.”

Rascon got ahead in the count with a well-placed curveball, then threw a high fastball that Schoon could not lay off. He finished off the Longhorns’ No. 5 hitter with a breaking ball in the dirt that had Schoon off balance and flailing unsuccessfully.

The Roaring Fork right hander struck out pinch-hitter Nick Montalbano on a similar pitch to end the game.

“When you’re not 100 percent, you know you’ve got to hit your spots a little more,” Rascon said. “I knew [those two hits in the seventh] were kind of my fault. I at least wanted to give my defense a chance. … Anything to win.”

While he struggled against No. 2 and 3 hitters Banc and Scherer, who each had three hits, Rascon overpowered the bottom of the Basalt batting order. The Longhorns’ six through nine hitters failed to reach base in 10 of 11 official at-bats and struck out eight times.

“To have the [tying run on second] with one out and not deliver, that hurt,” Basalt coach Mike Hoffman said. “The top of the lineup did great, but we needed those base hits from the bottom. We had our chances.”

Shea Nieslanik and Thomas Cerise singled off Schoon to lead off the second, then scored on Basalt errors to give the Rams (8-3) a 2-0 lead.

A miscue cost the Longhorns once more in the third, when Jake Strack-Loertscher drew a walk – one of his four on the day – and scored from second on an errant throw to first from shortstop Scherer.

The senior made amends in the bottom of the frame, lacing a single up the middle to drive in Banc with Basalt’s first run.

Two innings later, Scherer plated Banc once more with a double to the gap in left-center, trimming the deficit to one.

“It’s always good to get a lead on teams. Usually, when you put a team down in the beginning it sets the tone for the game,” coach Nieslanik said. “Give them credit. They kept fighting.”

After a scoreless sixth, Roaring Fork produced an all-important insurance run in the top of the seventh on a RBI single from Shea Nieslanik, who had two of his team’s six hits.

Rascon closed things out soon after.

“I was feeling OK, especially in the last couple innings. … I told coach they were sitting on the fastball, so I wanted to throw the curve more,” Rascon said.

“I’m glad it worked. … They were coming on strong, and we had a few lucky breaks.”

The Longhorns, now 3-7, host a doubleheader with Olathe on Tuesday. First pitch is slated for 1:30 p.m.

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