Longhorns dominant in Coal Ridge | AspenTimes.com

Longhorns dominant in Coal Ridge

NEW CASTLE Basalt senior Rory Johnson advised his coach to leave out the fact that Coal Ridge’s field did not have an outfield fence when he called in the results of Saturday’s doubleheader. Even if there had been a fence, it may not have mattered. Johnson hit inside-the-park home runs in three consecutive at-bats and the Longhorns had six home runs in Game 2 – and seven total – and cruised to the two-game sweep with victories of 15-2 and 15-1 over the winless Titans. Both games were shortened to five innings because of the mercy rule. “Every one of those would’ve gone over,” Basalt coach Rick Ryan said. “Once we hit the balls in the gaps and over their heads, there was 500 feet out there. Those poor kids were running uphill toward the school trying to chase those things down.”The hitting was contagious. We set team records with everything we did today.”With the wins, the Longhorns (7-4 overall, 6-3 3A Western Slope) stretched their current win streak to four and remain in contention for the conference’s fourth automatic state tournament bid. Gunnison (8-9, 7-5), which currently holds the fourth spot, split its doubleheader with Cedaredge on Saturday.Johnson went 4-for-4 with six RBIs in Game 2; he had six hits total and drove in eight runs. Johnson had 19 RBIs last season. Connor Rakowski hit a three-run homer in the first game; he added one more in Game 2. Tucker Hinchliffe and Colin Matheney also hit home runs for the Longhorns, who scored five runs in the first and six in the fourth inning of Game 2 to pull away. The Longhorns jumped out to an 8-0 lead after one inning in Game 1. Every player in the Basalt lineup had at least one hit in the second game. John Komula, a Coal Ridge student last year, had five hits. Hinchliffe was the lone Longhorns player without a hit in the first game.”He had a hard time trying to adjust to the off-speed stuff. He was frustrated and wanted to hit the crap out of the ball,” Ryan said. “I decided to have him pitch to slow him down and tire him out. It worked.”Hinchliffe struck out two of the three batters he faced in the fifth inning his first appearance of the season to seal Game 1. He went 3-for-4 in Game 2.Rakowski struck out five and scattered three hits in Game 1, and Bryan Mason allowed just three hits and one run in his five innings of work in Game 2. Most importantly, Basalt was able to rest ace and five-game winner Rory Johnson for the season’s most pivotal stretch.”We need to keep Rory as healthy as we can,” Ryan said. “I’m not even sure if he’ll pitch Thursday [against Aspen]. I think it’s going to come down to Gunnison.”Basalt plays rival Aspen on Thursday, then hosts a doubleheader with Gunnison on Saturday to close out the regular season. If they lose to the Skiers, the Longhorns will have to win both games Saturday; If Basalt and Gunnison tie in the final standings, total runs will determine who finishes fourth.”It’s going to be a big week,” Ryan said. “All we hope is that those last two games matter.”Jon Maletz’s e-mail address is jmaletz@aspentimes.com

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