Like a rock: Duroux, Basalt top Skiers |

Like a rock: Duroux, Basalt top Skiers

Jon Maletz
Aspen's Matt Beirne lays down a bunt as Nicky Anastas races home on a squeeze play during the fifth inning of Tuesday's game against Basalt in El Jebel. The Longhorns won, 5-3. (Mark Fox/The Aspen TImes)

First-year Basalt coach Rick Ryan said he hadn’t slept for three days leading up to Wednesday’s game with Aspen. Longhorns starter Darren Duroux made sure his new coach will be well-rested come today.Duroux struck out 12 Skiers and surrendered just three hits in a complete game as Basalt (2-4, 1-4) bested Aspen, 5-3, for its first Western Slope victory of the season. The win is Basalt’s third in its last 19 games against the Skiers.”Darren was in this position Saturday and wasn’t sure he could finish,” Ryan said. “Just three days later, he wouldn’t even look at me in the dugout. He wanted to finish the deal. He showed a lot of heart.”Ryan pulled Duroux after five innings Saturday, with the Longhorns leading Olathe by three. The bullpen squandered the advantage, and Basalt fell, 7-5.Wednesday, Duroux was not about to relinquish the ball. The 6-foot-5 senior struck out at least two batters in six of seven innings and surrendered only two runs in two bases-loaded situations.After a strikeout to open the second, three consecutive Skiers reached base. Taylor Huske lined a single up the middle, Dillon Morehead walked on five pitches, and Zack Maraziti reached on an infield error. Duroux composed himself, inducing a ground ball to third, and Basalt’s J.T. Donovan fired home to cut off the runner. Duroux then struck out junior second baseman Nicky Anastas on a high fastball to end the inning, stranding three runners.

“Most pitchers pay attention to the runners, but I really don’t,” said Duroux, whose teammates call him “Rock.” “I was pumped for this game. They beat us pretty good last year, and I thought of this game as my turn to help us come out on top.”Aspen (2-7, 1-3) again loaded the bases – this time with no outs – in the fifth. Skiers starter Jason LaGrua, who put Aspen on the board with a RBI groundout in the first, again brought home a runner on a ground ball to third. Anastas came around to score on a squeeze by Matt Beirne to tie the game at three. With runners on the corners, Bryan Mason started a 4-6-3 double play to end the inning. “I started this year with one gray hair, and now look what happened,” Ryan joked as he took off his cap to reveal a full head of salt-and-pepper hair.The Longhorns tied the game at one when Colin Matheney – batting ninth – lined a RBI single to right. One inning later, Basalt capitalized on three Skiers miscues to jump out to a 3-1 advantage. Basalt’s Ben Pollock charged down the first base line after hitting a grounder to Beirne at short, who rushed the throw; Huske couldn’t control it, and two runs scored.

Basalt added a run in the fifth on an RBI single by Rory Johnson and some insurance in the sixth when Matheney executed a squeeze that scored Navardo Javalera.”I try to tell these guys that it’s the little things that are gonna get us,” Aspen coach Matt Lilleberg said. “Jeff’s a good pitcher, and I give Basalt credit for putting the ball in play. It was a couple plays that changed the swing of things.”It looked as though Aspen’s first-inning run might hold up as LaGrua came out firing. He struck out five of the first six he faced – Zack Southward grounded softly to short. LaGrua struck out eight in the game.The bottom third of the Basalt lineup did some damage in the third when Javalera and Matheney both reached on singles. The Aspen defense unraveled in the fourth.”I think we let up a little,” Anastas said. “We had a few too many mistakes. If we clean those up, I think we’d have a good chance.

“It also wouldn’t hurt if we did a little more with the sticks.”Aspen could muster just three hits – one coming on a squeeze – against Duroux, who kept the skiers off balance. He changed the batters’ eye level by mixing high and low fastballs and threw in an occasional curve for good measure. Seven of the nine Aspen batters struck out at least once. Fittingly, Duroux struck out two of three in a 1-2-3 seventh to clinch the win and allow his new coach to exhale – finally.”This was a great ball game and a great win, considering all of the luggage that came with it,” Ryan said of coaching his first game against his former school. “This completed the circle. I’ll always have love for the kids in Aspen, but I’m a Longhorn now.”Jon Maletz’s e-mail address is

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