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Moriarty and Aspen sweep rival Longhorns

Jon Maletz
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

EL JEBEL ” Aspen baseball player Walker Moriarty beams when talking about playing Basalt. With good reason.

The junior hit back-to-back triples and scored two runs in the Skiers’ 14-7 win against their downvalley rivals April 7. Thursday, Moriarty took the ball and took control. He pitched six-plus innings of six-hit ball and faced one over the minimum in the fourth, fifth and six. He provided a spark on offense, too, leading off the bottom of the fourth with a ringing triple to right field. Aspen went on to score five runs in the inning to erase an early 3-2 deficit and pull out the 8-5 victory ” its 10th in 3A Western Slope play.

“This game was just an example of the kid being a gamer,” Skiers head coach Nate Grinzinger said of Moriarty. “He wanted the ball in his hands.”

Those hands proved to be more than capable. Moriarty, who missed the bulk of preseason practices while playing for the basketball team, struggled through arm soreness early this spring. Thursday, he threw 90 pitches and appeared to gain strength with each successive inning.

He ran into trouble in the third, walking Basalt’s ninth-place hitter Fletcher Richman to open the frame. Second baseman Taylor Mayer then let a grounder slip under his glove. The Longhorns went on to score three times ” one on another infield error and two on singles run-scoring singles from Tanner Banc and Chantry Pittman ” to take a 3-2 lead.

“I was glad to see us spread the hits around,” Basalt head coach Bud Hickman said. “We played one of our best games. We just had one inning where we had a little defensive breakdown.”

It came in the fourth. Moriarty, who reached on a well-placed drag bunt and came around to score in Aspen’s two-run second, lined Cory Ostrander’s hanging knuckleball into the corner in right and motored into third. He scored on Anderson Cole’s double to center. Cole came around to score on the first of two Longhorns errors in the inning to give Aspen the 4-3 lead.

Lamont Gross singled home a run with a sharp line drive to right, then the Skiers tacked on two more runs with two outs. Mayer broke for home plate on a throw down to second base with runners at the corners and slid safely past Basalt catcher Scott Hoffman’s tag. Zach Maraziti later drove in Quinn Morehead with a soft single over shortstop Blake Scherer’s head, stretching the advantage to 7-3.

Aspen had six hits in the fourth inning and nine in the game. Chris Dreher and Moriarty had two apiece, and Christian de la Cruz pitched in with a two-out, run-scoring double to left in the second.

“It’s tough to hold us down when the offense is clicking like that,” Grinzinger said.

Moriarty made the lead stand up, facing just six batters in the fifth and sixth innings. The Skiers pushed across an unearned run in the sixth to pull ahead by five.

“I felt great today,” Moriarty said. “Just knowing I had [a healthy] arm behind me felt good. … I love playing Basalt. I grew up playing with these guys, so it gets personal.”

After surrendering singles to Richman and Scherer in the seventh, Moriarty was pulled after Cole’s throwing error loaded the bases with no outs. Reliever Daniel Munger induced a fielder’s choice, then struck out Tanner Banc. He then caught Hoffman stealing to seal the win and push Aspen one game closer to clinching a postseason berth.

The Skiers close out the regular season Monday against Roaring Fork.

Six players had at least one hit for the Longhorns, who host a doubleheader with Gunnison at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Saturday at Basalt High School.

jmaletz@aspentimes.com


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