Skiers survive an extra-inning thriller |

Skiers survive an extra-inning thriller

Jon Maletz
Paul Conrad/The Aspen Times

Aspen watched its six-run lead against Cedaredge evaporate in the top of the seventh and stared down a three-run deficit in the 10th.The Skiers never flinched. Four straight batters reached base in the 10th, and Jeff LaGrua scored the winning run for a 12-11 extra-inning victory.”I knew these kids wouldn’t quit, that’s for sure,” Aspen head coach Matt Lilleberg said. “It was nerve-wracking.”Collin Smith – batting ninth for the Skiers – led off the 10th by lining a single to left field. Leadoff hitter Nicky Anastas battled deep into the count before singling through the hole at shortstop. Zack Maraziti then reached base on an infield error that allowed Smith to score. Lagrua followed with a two-run triple to the right center wall. He would come around to score the winning run one batter later when Cedaredge bobbled a grounder off the bat of Stephen Buzbee.”When we came into the dugout after the top of the 10th, I told the guys to keep their heads up,” LaGrua said. “The only way we were going to manufacture runs was to get the sticks going.”My goal was to hit it through the infield so we could score at least one and keep the inning going.”Lilleberg and his Skiers could not have predicted hours earlier that they’d have to sweat this one out. With his team leading by eight, Lilleberg opted to replace some starting position players. Andy Conarroe left after a six-inning, four-hit performance. He allowed two runs, both coming in the sixth on Bo Baker’s home run.

Aspen (3-9, 2-5) sent 10 batters to the plate during a five-run third inning that broke a scoreless tie. The Skiers had just two hits in the inning but drew four walks; three runs scored on wild pitches. LaGrua hit a sacrifice fly in the fourth, and Aspen pushed across two more in the fifth on a fielder’s choice by Tristan Kanipe and a passed ball that scored Taylor Huske.The Bruins, who fell, 6-1, in the teams’ first meeting on April 5, refused to go quietly. Six of Cedaredge’s first eight hitters reached base in the seventh. Huske, who replaced Conarroe, attempted a pickoff throw to third, which sailed wide and scored the first of six runs.After a run on a passed ball and a two-RBI triple by John Crews, Baker hit an RBI double off new reliever Kevin Coulombe that landed just beyond the glove of a diving Anastas. Aspen’s advantage was one run. Coulombe then threw a perfect curveball to catch Ryan Marah looking. Baker, who stole third, took off for home during Coulombe’s windup on an 0-2 pitch with two outs. He slid in past Maraziti’s tag to tie the game at eight.”If we lost this game, it was gonna be my loss,” said Lilleberg, who acknowledged a mistake in pulling the starters. “Kevin stepped up for us. He pitched Saturday and came in cold today, and wasn’t ready. I know he wanted to pitch Thursday [against Basalt], but he realized this game was as important as a rivalry.”Coulombe pitched a scoreless eighth and ninth, giving his offense the opportunity to win. The Skiers loaded the bases with three consecutive two-out singles in the eighth but could not score. In the ninth, they were retired in order.In the 10th, however, they responded. It was an effort and a result that bolstered the team’s confidence, LaGrua said.”This win made the team more close, more together,” he said. “It’s great to win an extra-inning game. It keeps morale high. Hopefully it carries over.”Jon Maletz’s e-mail address is

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