‘Horns edge Skiers in ‘wild’ finish
Confusion, shock and ejections – that’s how an extra-inning thriller between Aspen and Basalt ended in Aspen Monday, with the Longhorns walking away with a 7-6 win.
In the bottom of the ninth and down by one, Aspen’s Matt Fox struck out on a questionable call, Andy Conarroe was tagged out in a pickle between third and home, and two Skiers were tossed – all in the blink of an eye – to end the game.
It all played out so suddenly and with such pandemonium that it took a few minutes for anyone to realize what happened. The Longhorns mingled around the infield like their mascot, and fans shook their heads in disbelief, muttering, “What happened?”
What happened was several innings of cat-and-mouse play and nine innings of endurance-style pitching. Aspen’s Fox and Basalt’s Darren Duroux both pitched the entire game, with Fox never surrendering an earned run.
“Fox pitched more than well enough to win,” Aspen head coach Rick Ryan said following the game. “It’s a shame we’re not helping our pitchers – [Fox] pitched a great game.”
The drama began in the top of the fifth, when Basalt broke a 3-3 tie to go up 5-3.
Aspen caught up in the bottom of the sixth, tying the score at 5-5. But in the top of the seventh, Basalt struck again, dealing Aspen a 6-5 deficit heading into their last at-bat.
With one out in the bottom of the seventh, Duroux walked freshman Matt Beirne, who later stole second. Following an error by Basalt first baseman Zack Southward, Beirne beat a throw to home plate to tie the game and eventually send it into extra innings.
Fox returned to the mound in the top of the eighth and retired two of the first batters he faced. Then he ran into trouble and loaded the bases. And with two outs, Basalt’s J.T. Donovan hit a shot to right-center that – if not for a leaping catch by freshman Jeff Lagrua – would have cleared the bases.
The Skiers came up empty-handed in the bottom of the eighth, and heading into the ninth, the score was still locked at 6-6.
The Longhorns got off to a quick start and played smart baseball in the top of the ninth. Roy Johnson, a freshman, got things going with a base hit to right field and was later advanced to second following a perfect bunt by Hobbs.
With one down, Southward chopped a ground ball into right field to score Johnson and put the Longhorns up 7-6.
Then, in the bottom of the ninth, Aspen’s Conarroe hit a double to left-center. Duroux struck out the next batter, Lagrua, but Beirne kept the Skiers’ hopes alive when he reached first on a ground ball following an error by Longhorn third baseman Donovan. Conarroe advanced to third in the process.
That brought Fox to the plate, with one out and two men aboard. With two strikes against him, Fox watched as the umpire called a head-high pitch strike three.
That’s when things got hasty.
As Fox walked back to the dugout, junior Pat Faurer confronted the umpire, telling him it was a “terrible call.” Meanwhile, Conarroe was caught between third and home in a pickle. Faurer and Carter Budwell continued to have words with the umpire (both were ejected and will miss the next game), and Conarroe was eventually tagged out by Duroux to end the game.
“It was crazy,” Basalt head coach Seann Goodman said. “To finish the game with a rundown like that – what a weird double play – but it was a win.”
Fox said it was frustrating, after pitching nine innings, to strike out to end the game.
“I thought it was high and inside,” he said. “I was pretty mad about it, but hopefully we’ll take the anger into the next game.”
Ryan had mixed feelings over the incident with the umpire.
“The good thing is the kids cared enough to be upset,” he said. “The bad is we pride ourselves on being a classy team.”
Aspen, now 1-11, hosts Grand Valley Thursday, while Basalt, 4-12, travels to Debeque tomorrow.
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The 2020-21 Nordic combined season was supposed to be historic. This winter was going to be the first ever with women’s Nordic combined World Cup events, the first scheduled for Dec. 3-6 in Lillehammer, Norway.