Skiers softballers making coach a believer
ASPEN ” The starting catcher didn’t show up to practice until the first day of school. The outfield was full of question marks. The starting pitcher only started throwing on the mound this summer.
Realistically, Aspen High softball coach Ed Zane wasn’t expecting much from an inexperienced, young team this season. It’s safe to say the Skiers have more than exceeded those expectations.
With some key hitting and a little luck, Aspen rallied late in two straight games Saturday to sweep a doubleheader against Cedaredge and improve to 8-2 overall. The Skiers were down, 16-6, entering the bottom of the sixth inning in the first game, but staved off a 10-run mercy rule loss with two runs, then rallied for nine in the bottom of the seventh.
Freshman Taylor Bennett had the game-winning RBI, giving Aspen a huge dose of momentum heading into the second game.
Down 16-14 entering the fifth inning of the afternoon game, Zane brought in his starter from the first game, sophomore Liz Baty, who held Cedaredge scoreless over the remaining three innings.
The Skiers struck for five runs in the bottom of the fifth, a rally which was started by a walk from senior shortstop Grace Seigle. Seigle went 3-for-4 at the plate, nearly hitting for the cycle with a single, double and a triple. Bennett was 2-for-4.
The two wins came after a 19-5 rout of 4A Steamboat on Thursday, and put the surprise Skiers in contention for postseason play.
“We definitely are off to a pretty good start, compared to what we thought we were going to do,” Zane said. “The girls get along well, and have a good team chemistry. They never give up. They’re also swinging the bats really well. They’re not afraid to swing the bat and put the ball in play.”
One of the biggest surprises thus far this season has been senior second baseman Julia Hassall, a standout soccer and basketball player who came out for softball for the first time in August. In the first game Saturday, Hassall cranked out two doubles and went 4-for-4.
Baty and fellow sophomore pitcher Kerry Braisted, who relieved Baty in the first game and started the second, have also been clutch.
Saturday, a number of wild pitches and fielding errors from both teams fueled the high scores, but nonetheless, Zane and assistant coach Kayden Christensen were pleased with the way both hurlers battled.
“Liz struggled a bit today,” said Christensen, a former college pitcher. “She’s got a back injury, but she worked hard and she toughed it out. We gave her a break, and Kerry came in and did a great job backing her up. Liz iced for a while, and then she came back and finished.”
Aspen still has its toughest tests of the season remaining, against league foes Basalt and Gunnison. The Skiers host both next week, starting with a 4 p.m. Tuesday game against the Longhorns, followed by a doubleheader Saturday against the Cowboys.
“They just hung in today and didn’t give up,” Zane said. “Cedaredge’s starting pitcher started to struggle a bit, which helped, but they ran the bases well and took advantage of every opportunity.”
Nate Peterson’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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