Skiers go out strong
ASPEN Matt Beirne was one of the last Skiers wearing his uniform as the dugout emptied in the moments after Tuesday’s game against Roaring Fork.The senior wasn’t planning on changing anytime soon.”I’m going to keep the jersey on for a while,” he said. “At least for the ride home, maybe longer.”Tuesday’s game – the last for Beirne and six other seniors – is one he won’t soon forget. Beirne gave up two runs on four hits and struck out nine in a complete-game effort, and sophomore Zack Maraziti singled home the game-winner in the bottom of the seventh to give the Skiers the 3-2 victory.
Late-inning heroics are nothing new for Aspen. Jeff LaGrua’s game-winning single in the bottom of the seventh Saturday propelled the Skiers (6-12 overall, 5-9 3A Western Slope) to the 10-9 win in Game 1 of a doubleheader against Hotchkiss.Tuesday’s result provided a fulfilling consolation to a tumultuous season.”There was a lot more emotion involved in this game, and this really leaves a good taste in our mouths,” Beirne said. “This one means the most. The last game is the one we’ll all remember for a long time.”Beirne, in a pitchers duel with Rams senior Kyle Raaflaub, held Roaring Fork to two hits – both ground-rule doubles from Trevor Hunt – and no runs through three.Aspen’s starter worked out of trouble in the third after walking the leadoff hitter. After a fielder’s choice and a strikeout, Hunt lined a double to deep left – Dietrich Minor came around to score, but was called back to third because he was only able to advance two bases on the ground-rule double. Beirne struck out Black, stranding two runners in scoring position.
The Skiers, who went ahead in the first when Anastas stole home – LaGrua couldn’t make contact on an attempted bunt, but the ball scampered away from catcher Jake Kinney – squandered their lead in the fourth. Beirne walked Kinney, who advanced to third when left fielder Bo Weinglass couldn’t handle Raaflaub’s fly ball. The error proved costly, as Phibbs followed with a two-run single to right field. With Raaflaub cruising on the mound, it looked like the Rams’ lead would hold up. Raaflaub, who threw a two-hitter with 11 K’s in a 4-1 win over Aspen on March 21, faced just one over the minimum through three innings. Raaflaub, who had to pull himself from Saturday’s game with Cedaredge after just three innings because of arm trouble, induced a weak grounder to the mound to open the fifth. Then, against the bottom third of the order, he ran into trouble. Conarroe tripled to left, then Weinglass followed with a game-tying triple. It appeared as though the Rams had regained the lead in the sixth when Kinney lined a ball out of the reach of Walker Moriarty in left and came around to score on an inside-the-park home run. Kinney was in the dugout when umpires ruled the ball had gone out of play and made him go back to second.
“That hurt us big time,” Rams coach Steve Kinney said. “And both of Trevor’s hits would’ve been triples in any other ballpark. That’s the game, and it’s tough on Kyle. He pitched a great game, as usual.”Raaflaub recorded three of his nine strikeouts in the sixth, but didn’t retire one batter in the seventh. Conarroe walked, stole second and advanced to third on Moriarty’s bunt single. Maraziti followed with a single to left; Conarroe raised both hands in celebration as he crossed home plate.Beirne retired 10 of the last 11 he faced to pick up the win.”This is the way I wish they had played all year,” Aspen coach Matt Lilleberg said. “It was great to see the seniors play as well as they did this past week even though we were eliminated. It feels good to finish strong.”Jon Maletz’s e-mail address is email@example.com
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Buttermilk Ski Area already is scheduled to host the world’s best at ESPN’s X Games this coming week, while it was recently announced Aspen Highlands will host alpine skiing’s NorAm finals later this spring.