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Skiers top Battle Mountain

Jon Maletz
Mark Fox/The Aspen Times
ALL |

For seemingly the entire high school baseball season, Dr. Jekyll and his infamous alter ego have been wearing red, black and white.Just ask first-year Aspen coach Matt Lilleberg, who has watched his team battle inconsistency since March. Monday, the switch occurred between innings. The Skiers blew an 8-0 lead to Battle Mountain in the sixth inning, only to respond with three runs in the top of the eighth to come away with the 11-8 victory.”When we play good, I’m always impressed by how good we can play,” Lilleberg said. “Then we pull a Jekyll-and-Hyde, and I’m impressed by how bad we are.”

For five innings, Skiers sophomore Taylor Huske shut out the Huskies (0-10, 0-12), who have been outscored 173-20 this season. Without warning, however, the momentum switched. A host of errors and a few hits, and Aspen and Battle Mountain were heading for extra innings. “It ended up getting a little closer than we wanted,” said Lilleberg, who rested starter Stephen Buzbee plus Matt Beirne, who is nursing an injury.The Skiers (3-7, 5-11) rested heavily on junior pitcher Nicky Anastas to regain control and the bats to produce in the late innings. Aspen’s struggles were on display Saturday, when it dropped the first of two to Roaring Fork, 13-3. The Rams jumped out to a four-run lead on starter Jeff LaGrua after one inning.

“Jeff throws a lot of strikes and they have a lot of contact batters, and the combo didn’t work well for us,” Lilleberg said. “Our bats were still decent, but we were behind by too much.”In the second game, we did something we haven’t done all year: We bounced back after losing the first game. Usually, we tend to tumble downhill after game one, but we held it together.”After getting outscored 42-7 in two previous losses, Aspen matched its modest, but season-best, two-game winning streak. Aspen beat Grand Valley and Cedaredge back-to-back March 24 and April 5, and is hoping for an encore on Saturday’s trip to Hotchkiss for a doubleheader to close out the regular season.A few more wins might not have made much of a difference for Aspen, though. Olathe has already secured a first-round bye in next week’s playoffs, the final six spots are up in the air, Lilleberg said. The No. 2-4 teams will host playoff games against the league’s bottom three.

The Skiers are well-equipped for the postseason, Lilleberg said. Whether that happens will depend, however, on which Aspen team takes the field.”I’m not trying to say the regular season didn’t matter, but we’re by no means in a bad situation,” he said. Jon Maletz’s e-mail address is jmaletz@aspentimes.com


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