Cardinals grand against sloppy Basalt |

Cardinals grand against sloppy Basalt

Jon MaletzAspen, CO Colorado
Jordan Curet/The Aspen Times

EL JEBEL Despite six innings rife with fielding miscues and missed offensive opportunities, the Longhorns were primed for a comeback in the seventh inning Thursday against Grand Valley.They loaded the bases with no outs, and the middle of the lineup was eager to take its swings against newly inserted Cardinals reliever Danny Manzanares. The result? The seventh inning ended, much like the six before it, in frustration and disappointment. Manzanares struck out two of three and induced a weak groundout to first to preserve the 5-2 win – the Cardinals’ fourth straight – and even the season series; Basalt (2-1) beat Grand Valley, 9-1, in the season opener March 15.

“We didn’t come out ready to play,” Basalt head coach Rick Ryan said. “Maybe we read about ourselves in the paper after last game and thought we were better than we really are.”Tucker Hinchliffe, Basalt’s catcher and leader, stepped in against Manzanares. He got caught looking on an 0-2 fastball that painted the outside corner. Rory Johnson, who was 3-for-3 with two singles and a double in his previous plate appearances – all against starter Sam McKinley – strolled to the plate. Teammate Colin Matheney took some practice swings in the on-deck circle.The duo helped the Longhorns cut into a 3-0 Cardinals lead in the bottom of the fourth. Johnson lined a one-out double into the gap in left center, and Matheney followed with a triple to the wall in right; he later stole home, cutting the deficit to oneThey couldn’t come through in the seventh, however. Johnson, fooled on a breaking ball with two strikes, attempted an off-balance swing but could not make contact. Matheney then grounded softly to first to end the game, clinching a win for McKinley and a save for Manzanares.

“We had our chances, but it was just one of those games,” Johnson said. “Our defense struggled, but we could’ve definitely overcome that.”Basalt’s seven errors were a constant hindrance. Tyler Jensen doubled to left with two outs in the first, then attempted a steal of third; Hinchliffe’s throw sailed over the head of third baseman Ryan Zubizaretta, allowing Jensen to jog home with the first run. Two Longhorns errors yielded two Grand Valley runs in the third. McKinley reached on a fielder’s choice, stole second and advanced to third when Hinchliffe again fired an errant throw into the outfield; McKinley later scored on Manzanares’ fielder’s choice. Colton Cowan scored on an error by Johnson at first base. Manzanares finished with two hits and three RBIs.

“I could see it in the players’ eyes before the ball even got there. We let the ball play us,” Ryan said. “We weren’t aggressive at the plate, either.”The Longhorns stranded nine baserunners in the game – seven were in scoring position. McKinley, a guard on the Cardinals’ 2A state champion basketball team, struck out eight and scattered six hits in his six-plus strong innings.”This can be a positive if we come out and play well against Olathe [on Saturday],” Ryan said. “If we’re serious about competing, this weekend will be a good chance to step up.”Jon Maletz’s e-mail address is

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