Softball: ‘Horns hang on |

Softball: ‘Horns hang on

Jon Maletz
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
Jim Ryan/Courtesy photoLonghorns left fielder Brittany Driscoll hauls in a fly ball during Thursday's game against Rifle at Basalt High.

BASALT – Brittany Driscoll didn’t hesitate.

As soon as Basalt teammate Maddie Nieslanik made contact, hitting a slow dribbler up the left side of the infield, Driscoll barreled down the third-base line. She slid into home, narrowly beating the throw.

Thursday’s marathon softball game with Rifle was finally over. The Longhorns had prevailed.

It was hardly an impressive showing for the home team, but postseason-bound Basalt sure will take it. While they squandered a six-run lead and were uncharacteristically wild on the mound and careless in the field, the Longhorns proved resilient down the stretch, pulling out a 10-9 win over the Bears in a

10-inning thriller that lasted more than three hours.

“The first part of the game was good – we were up 6-0. Next thing you know, you’re looking in the rearview mirror and there they are,” Basalt head coach Bruce Matherly said. “The one good thing is that the girls hung in there and felt like they always had a chance, which is a positive we can take to regionals. But what we saw today is that we’ve got a lot of work to do next week.”

The Longhorns entered Thursday’s nonconference bout having won their past four games by a combined margin of 68-7. The offense that helped Basalt clinch a 3A District 5 title – its fourth in five seasons – was on full display early on a blustery afternoon.

Nieslanik and Shelley Briscoe hit RBI singles, and two other Longhorns scored on errors during a four-run first. They upped their advantage to six with two more in the second; Morgan Young drove in one with a groundout, and Hunter Ash scampered home on a passed ball.

After narrowly escaping trouble in the second inning, Basalt starter Young was roughed up for three runs in the third. The left hander, who tossed a no-hitter in the second game of Saturday’s doubleheader sweep of Gunnison, did not make it out of the fourth.

She allowed the first four Bears in the frame to reach – two on sharply hit balls – and two runs before being replaced by Driscoll.

Driscoll walked the first batter she faced before inducing a fielder’s choice and a strikeout to escape trouble. Rifle stranded three runners in the inning and 16 in the game.

“We just didn’t play well at all today,” Matherly admitted. “I didn’t think the fielding was crisp, … and we had (10) walks. We usually don’t have half that in a week, two or three games. We didn’t hit the ball that well, either.”

The Bears (9-1-1) pulled to within one after a run-scoring triple and single in the fourth. After allowing two to score on miscues and surrendering an RBI single to Basalt’s Jordan DeCrow in the bottom of the frame, Rifle pushed across three more runs on two clutch hits in the fifth.

While she struggled early, Bears starter Taylor Gore settled in and held the Longhorns at bay. She allowed just three hits – all singles – and no runs from the fifth through ninth innings. Teammate Emma Speer doubled to lead off the seventh, then came around to score on a error to square the game and force extra innings.

“This just shows what a challenge it is to get to a certain level and stay there,” Matherly said. “A team like ours is not deep, so we pretty much have to be hitting on all cylinders to be a good team. If we’re not, we can play OK and maybe squeak one out once in a while.”

To pull this one out, Basalt leaned heavily on Driscoll’s right arm and her seemingly unflappable demeanor. She wiggled out of a jam in the eighth, inducing a popout to center field and a timely strikeout to strand two Bears in scoring position.

Driscoll got some help in the ninth from Briscoe, who chased down a fly ball in center, then alertly fired a strike to first to double up a Rifle player and end the inning.

Briscoe walked to lead off the bottom of the frame but was promptly caught stealing.

The Longhorns got the lead runner on once more in the 10th. This time, they capitalized. Driscoll reached on an error by Speer at shortstop, taking second when the throw sailed wide of the first baseman. Young advanced the runner with a well-placed groundout.

Two batters later, Nieslanik’s soft grounder proved to be enough for Basalt, which next will play Oct. 13, when it hosts a four-team regional. The top two will advance to the state tournament the following weekend.

“This is a good game for us to have at this point in the season,” Matherly asserted. “It’s a bit of a wake-up call. We’re going to have to play a lot better to get to the level we need to be at for regionals.”

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