Rams pitcher ‘masterful’ against Skiers | AspenTimes.com

Rams pitcher ‘masterful’ against Skiers

Jon MaletzAspen, CO Colorado
Jordan Curet/The Aspen Times

CARBONDALE Kyle Raaflaub watched helplessly during the fourth inning Wednesday as a seemingly harmless ground ball rolled under the glove of Roaring Fork shortstop Soren Phibbs and into left field. Aspen’s Stephen Buzbee came around to score the tying run. From then on, Raaflaub made sure the game rested in his steady hands. He struck out three of the next four batters, allowed one single over the final 313 innings – and just two total in a 4-1 complete-game win for the Rams (1-3) – and had two clutch hits as well.”He came out and pitched great,” Aspen coach Matt Lilleberg said. “He absolutely worked all of his pitches. It was masterful. When we’ve faced dominating pitching this season, we can’t quite overcome it.”Raaflaub retired the side in the top of the first, striking out two and inducing a weak ground ball off the bat of Anderson Cole. The only Skiers batter to reach base through two innings was senior Dillon Morehead, who singled on a weak liner that landed in the soft dirt just behind the mound.Aspen could muster just three groundouts in the third off Raaflaub, who looked like he was in midseason form. The senior, fresh off a run to the 3A state basketball tournament’s “Great Eight” in Fort Collins, struck out 11 and walked just two.”He really responded today, and I expected a performance like that,” Rams coach Steve Kinney said. “Kyle knew the fielders were inexperienced, and he knew what he had to do.”

Raaflaub ran into trouble after walking Buzbee with one out in the fourth. Buzbee stole second, then scored the tying run when Soren couldn’t handle Morehead’s grounder.

Raaflaub, one of four Rams with varsity experience, helped Roaring Fork regain the lead in the bottom of the inning when he scored on a passed ball. He led off the fourth with a ringing single up the middle, then advanced to third when Dietrich Minor fought off a pitch for a single to shallow right. Aspen’s Andy Conarroe walked Casey Weaver to load the bases with no outs and was pulled in favor of Jeff LaGrua.”He was throwing fine, but Andy throws junk, and Jeff throws faster,” Lilleberg said. Conarroe struck out seven and allowed two runs on three hits in three-plus innings. “We were hoping to get two or three strikeouts and get out of the inning. We got out of it and allowed just one run, so I was happy.”Raaflaub scored the eventual game-winner on a passed ball on LaGrua’s first pitch. LaGrua then struck out two and, after hitting leadoff hitter Trevor Hunt in the helmet, induced a groundout to first.

The Rams stretched their lead with two more runs in the fifth. Raaflaub lined a high fastball for a triple that one-hopped the fence in deep right, scoring Tyler Hunt with one out. During the next at-bat, LaGrua’s pitch hit the dirt away from catcher Kody Hornburg; Raaflaub broke for home and slid in just ahead of the throw. “I felt good. I was trying to find my bearings out there after only a few practices,” said Raaflaub, who had practiced just four times and pitched four innings. “Once I got the feel on the mound, I wanted to see how far I could take us.”Raaflaub was at its best late in the game. He retired seven straight during the fourth, fifth and six innings and wiggled out of a one-out, bases-loaded jam in the top half of the seventh. He struck out Bo Weinglass looking on a sharp curve, then threw a high fastball past Conarroe for the final out. Aspen was 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position.

“He really competed out there, and put the ball every which way,” Kinney said. “He pitched a great game. It was one we needed.Aspen will look to regroup when it sends senior Matt Beirne to the mound against Coal Ridge at 4 p.m. today in El Jebel.”I told the guys that, one through nine we’re better than them,” Lilleberg said. “Next time we face those guys, we’ll be better. Raaflaub just carried them today.”Jon Maletz’s e-mail address is jmaletz@aspentimes.com


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