Skiers win in last at-bat against Longhorns
Following a 20-minute rainstorm accompanied by fierce winds that swept into the valley, the Aspen softball team faced a 5-1 deficit after just three innings against rival Basalt.Any hopes of a Skiers victory seemed soaked.But as the sun started to peek through the cloud cover and the air heated up, so too did pitcher Brittany Britt and the Skiers, who chipped away at the deficit and won in their last at-bat, 6-5.”We had a slow start, which has been happening all year,” Aspen coach Eddie Zane said. “Once we started to shut them down, I thought we could make this happen.”
The Longhorns jumped out to the early lead with four runs on four hits in the first and second innings, then pushed across a two-out run in the third. Jacqueline Everett came around to score when an errant Skiers throw to second on a force-play attempt went into center field.Britt allowed six hits through three innings, and three Basalt runs were unearned, the result of two errors and a second-inning bases-loaded passed ball. The Longhorns would get no help from Britt or the Skiers the rest of the way.When Aspen needed her most, Britt was at her best. The senior starter struck out the side in the fourth inning, and faced just four batters in each of the last three innings. Only two Basalt baserunners reached second after the third inning. Britt struck out five. During the first two innings – when precipitation made the ball slick – Britt struggled with her control, walking three.
“I knew I had to get back in it after,” Britt said of the team’s rocky start. “Carly [Magill] talked to me and told me to keep my arm in and step toward the plate. I wanted to beat Basalt really bad.”With the Longhorns offense – a unit that recorded 19 hits in a victory Saturday against Gunnison – neutralized during the game’s later innings, the Skiers made their move.Grace Siegle led off the third with a inside-the-park home run to deep center. She benefited from a stumble by Basalt center fielder Heather Condez, who slipped and fell on the wet grass while trying to play the pop fly.In the fifth, Britt, who had a RBI single in the first, scored on a passed ball to cut the lead to two. Aspen had the bases loaded with one out but pushed only one run across. In the sixth, Magill lined a RBI single to left, stole second and later scored on a Siegle groundout to tie the game at 5-5.”Once we had runners on base, we were making their infielders and outfielders think,” Zane said.
Despite all the mental mishaps, booted balls and countless glares from Zane in the coaching box outside third base, Aspen had a chance to win in the bottom of the seventh. With a hotly contested conference game in limbo, the Skiers’ persistent, aggressive base-running style paid off. Ashley Ryan walked on five pitches to open the inning and immediately stole second. She advanced to third on a passed ball with no outs. Three batters later, Ryan would score the winning run when a pitch by Basalt starter Darbi Scherer grazed the outstretched glove of catcher Katy Mulchay and rolled to the backstop. Scherer battled Aspen as much as her control throughout the game, walking nine and hitting two Skiers. She loaded the bases on three walks in the second, but managed to escape by inducing a Magill flyout to center. With the bases loaded again in the fifth with one run already in, Scherer struck out two Skiers in succession to wiggle out of the jam and help the Longhorns maintain what was then a 5-3 lead. She could not, however, force extra innings.
“Darbi pitched well today,” Basalt coach Bruce Matherly said. “She wasn’t as dialed-in as she usually is, but we just didn’t hit. If we did, we would have come out OK.”The Longhorns struck in the first on a two-out, two-run single by Allison Brumet. Basalt had just eight hits.”Basalt has two or three hitters capable of hitting home runs, and they didn’t even get the ball out of the infield today,” Zane said. “I wish we didn’t wait until the seventh, but I’m happy with the outcome.”When the two teams square off Oct. 6 in their regular-season finale, Aspen will have history and confidence on its side. In both 2003 and 2004, the team that won Game 1 went on to sweep the season series. Aspen won the only meeting between the two teams in 2002, 15-11.Jon Maletz’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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Skico CEO Mike Kaplan emphasized in a virtual address that this upcoming skiing season will be as spread out as possible with limited personal interaction in order to avoid potential COVID-19 infections and keep the mountains open.