How sweep it is for Basalt baseball | AspenTimes.com
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How sweep it is for Basalt baseball

Jon MaletzThe Aspen TimesAspen, CO Colorado

DEBEQUE, Colo. Basalt coach Rick Ryan insists he has no expectations. That could change after this past weekend.Senior Travis D’Anna went 7-for-8 with four triples and newly-annointed No. 1 Zack Schultz pitched six innings of shutout ball to lead the host Longhorns to a 3-0 record – their best start in program history – in a tournament against Battle Mountain, Ignacio and Lake County in Debeque. “This team’s so different [than last year], and we really don’t have an identity,” Ryan said Sunday. “Our seniors other than Connor [Rakowski] really haven’t played that much and, coming out the gym, I figure we’re going to have to be scrappy and fight for every run. We’re not going to hit three-run home runs any more.”Basalt lost a strong senior contingent, which included All-State catcher and 3A Western Slope player of the year Tucker Hinchliffe, standout pitcher Rory Johnson and Colin Matheney, one of the league’s top center fielders. Those departures, coupled with the league’s balance – six of nine teams posted .500 or better records in 2007, and many expect that trend to continue – Ryan said he wondered where his young Longhorns would fit in.The early returns look positive. While their field is not ready (Debeque, which dropped its baseball program, offered its facilities for the tournament), the Longhorns apparently were, pulling out an 8-7 victory in Friday’s opener against Battle Mountain. Schultz pitched three shutout innings in his first work of the season and left with his team leading, 4-0. The Longhorns bullpen squandered the lead, and the Huskies pulled ahead, 6-4. Sophomore third baseman Cory Ostrander came to Basalt’s aid in the fifth with a two-out, two-run single to left. Left fielder Gustavo Hurtado singled home another run in the inning. D’Anna added some insurance in the sixth. He reached on a single – he went 4-for-4 with three triples in the game – stole second and third, then scored on a sacrifice fly.”He was hurting the ball,” Ryan said of D’Anna, who appears locked in to his role as cleanup hitter in the season’s early going. “He knew he had to step up, and I knew he would. If he keeps this up, he’ll rewrite a lot of things. … We’re going to need him all year.”Rakowski, fresh off a season with the Basalt basketball team, followed Schultz’s lead in Game 2 against Ignacio on Saturday afternoon. He struck out eight and surrendered two runs in three innings of work. Sophomore Marty Knous impressed in his varsity debut, striking out five and giving up one run in the final three innings, and the Longhorns won, 8-3.Rakowski led the way from the plate against Lake County later Saturday, going 3-for-3 with three RBIs to help the Longhorns win, 12-0. Schultz pitched three more scoreless innings and ran his strikeout total for the young season to 11. Ostrander went 5-for-8, and D’Anna finished with five RBIs and nine runs scored in the three games. Freshman catcher Scott Hoffman impressed, too, lining the first pitch of his varsity career for a triple off the wall in right field.”He seems so far advanced for a freshman,” Ryan said of his new backstop. “He’s not Tucker yet, but it won’t be long.”Basalt next plays Thursday in Parachute against Grand Valley, a team it split with last year. The Cardinals, one of 2A’s top programs, will be joining the Slope in 2009. The Longhorns are slated to host Aspen in their league opener March 20.After a three-game stretch in which his team outscored opponents, 28-10, is Ryan ready to revise his initial outlook?Not yet.”I don’t want it to [change],” he said. “Being scrappy is what we want to do. If we win a couple league games, then we’ll shoot for a top-five spot to get into that next level of games. … It should be interesting.”jmaletz@aspentimes.com