Skiers drop two at home to Gunnison
With a showdown against rival Basalt looming on Tuesday, Aspen’s varsity baseball team was looking to gain some momentum Saturday in a doubleheader against league foe Gunnison in El Jebel.Gunnison had other ideas. The visiting Cowboys snapped the Skiers (2-6, 1-2) two-game win streak by stealing the first game, 5-4, after forcing extra innings, then dominating the second, 7-1. “We’re disappointed to come away without a win this weekend, but ready to get back out there and try to do well in the rest of the conference games,” first-year Skiers coach Matt Lilleberg said. “I told them to keep their heads up. We had a real good game on Wednesday against Cedaredge and we’re just going to come back out. That’s baseball. It’s a part of the game.”Aspen let a 3-run lead and a dominant pitching performance from senior starter Kevin Coulombe slip away in the morning game.
Coulombe recorded seven strikeouts and allowed no runs through the first five innings, while the Skiers knocked home two runs in the third, then added another in the fifth. Junior Andy Conarroe drove in the first run and junior Jeff LaGrua knocked home the second. In the fifth, junior Dillon Morehead belted a triple, and junior Andy MacCraken drove him in with a single.Gunnison finally got to Coulombe in the sixth, driving in three runs to knot the game. Coulombe held the Cowboys scoreless in the seventh, but the Skiers were unable to bring home any runs, which led to extra frames. Aspen junior Matt Beirne came on in relief in the eighth and sat down three Gunnison batters, but the Skiers again were unable to produce any scoring offense.In the bottom of the ninth, Gunnison took a 5-3 lead, which set up the tense final half inning. Beirne led off and ripped a base hit to center, then Coulombe then belted a shot into deep right for a double, which drove Beirne home. A dribbling grounder from sophomore Taylor Huske found its way through the legs of the Gunnison pitcher, which allowed Huske to make it to first and Coulombe to advance to third.
Senior Tristan Kanipe then lined a ground ball down the third base line, and Coulombe charged for home. It appeared Coulombe slid under the tag when the throw came home, but the umpire called him out.The call incited Aspen’s home fans, and drew raised eyebrows from Lilleberg.It also decided the game, after Morehead hit a grounder to the short stop who recorded the force-out on Kanipe at second, and then MacCracken struck out in the final at-bat. After both games, Lilleberg said he had no comment on the controversial call at home that went against his team.
Coulombe didn’t hold back his opinion.”It was hard to lose that first game, but I can’t really do much because my team was playing as hard as they could,” he said. “They were doing their parts and we got gypped on a couple calls, but it was a tough game. Everybody did their part, but that’s how life rolls.”In the second game, Conarroe started and allowed five runs through seven innings, before being replaced by Beirne. Beirne’s two runs were unearned.Aspen’s lone run came in the bottom of the sixth after MacCracken was brought home by LaGrua.
Following a big 6-1 win against Cedaredge on Wednesday, there was no denying the Skiers backtracked, Coulombe said. But he noted that the two losses were forgotten as soon as the game was over.”We kind of just lost our energy in the second game, but I’ll know we’ll be ready to go Tuesday,” he said. “It’s our arch rival and it’s our old coach. It’s going to be the best game of our lives right there. … I know the team would be ready to turn a truck over for Tuesday. That’s how pumped we are.”Nate Peterson’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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Aspen Skiing Co. will delay the opening of Aspen Highlands until Dec. 18 due to lack of a base and scant snow in the forecast.