Longhorns strike early, pound rival Skiers
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
ASPEN ” Sprinkler problems and persistent rain forced Basalt to move Thursday’s softball game with the rival Skiers upvalley.
No matter. The Longhorns made themselves right at home at Aspen’s Upper Moore Field.
Basalt took advantage of multiple miscues to score five runs in the top of the first and extended the lead with its characteristic aggressive base running. Junior Alexa Aitken silenced the Skiers bats, allowing just one infield single in five innings, and the Longhorns cruised to the 13-0 victory in a game shortened because of the mercy rule.
“We always try to be aggressive on the basepaths … and try to force errors as much as we can while minimizing our own,” Basalt coach Bruce Matherly said. “We’re getting there, but we need to keep improving.”
First-year Aspen head coach Jeremy Haack implored his players to play strong bunt defense and to avoid giving the high-powered Longhorns extra outs. But Skiers miscues wound up fueling an early Basalt run in the first. Six of the first seven Longhorns reached base ” only two (Jamie Matherly and Kenzie Kuhn) had hits.
The Longhorns ran at will against Aspen catcher Marisa Dreher, and the Skiers infield committed three errors in the inning.
“They put so much pressure on the defense,” Haack said. “It was hard to recover.”
“Being visitors, it was extra important [to get off to a fast start],” Aitken said. “I think it put fear in them once we had the lead.”
Aitken struck fear in the Aspen offense. She retired the side in order on just seven pitches in the first. In the second, she struck out Liz Baty, Hana Maclean and Dreher in succession.
Aspen’s lone hit came with one out in the third, when Claire Kornasiewicz bounced a dribbler up the first baseline, past a drawn-in Jessie Anderson. Anderson chased down the ball near the outfield grass and unsuccessfully flipped it toward the bag.
Aitken stranded Kornasiewicz at first, striking out Sierra McKinney then inducing a groundout from leadoff hitter Chelsey Hanle.
Aitken worked around a one-out error and some control problems in the fourth, stranding two runners in scoring position.
“Later in the game when there were more runners on, I was a little more nervous and my mind was a little more distracted,” said Aitken, who struck out six and walked two. “I just had to stay in the game and keep pitching.”
While she continued to neutralize the Skiers offense, the Longhorns offense kept rolling. Aitken scored in the fourth when Jamie Matherly walked then intentionally got into a rundown between first and second, forcing an errant throw. Basalt all but sealed the win with six hits and six runs in the top of the fifth. Conner Adams, Katie King, Aitken and Matherly each had RBI singles in the inning.
Katie King, Aitken, Matherly and Lane Calabro each had two hits.
“We played well, but we never want to take Aspen lightly,” Bruce Matherly said. “I told the girls that if they didn’t play a good game, Aspen would come right back and hand it to us. They’ve done it before.”
Including last year. After dropping their first game to the Longhorns, 13-1, The Skiers rebounded with an 8-5 victory to salvage a series split.
That loss was still on Abby King’s mind Thursday.
“We’re still a little bit bitter, but it’s nice to come out with a shutout win,” she said. “Once we got here, we really focused in on our game. … Once we got up, we realized we needed to stay up. We can’t get cocky at all.”
The Longhorns will look to continue an unbeaten week (they blew out Steamboat Springs, 21-0, on Tuesday) when they travel to 5A Grand Junction Central for Saturday’s doubleheader.
Aspen hosts a doubleheader that same day against league foe Cedaredge.
“We’ll find out what kind of team we have,” Haack said. “We’ll find out if we can bounce back.”
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