State-ment season: Two Basalt softball players earn top honor
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
BASALT ” Basalt head softball coach Bruce Matherly’s goals were modest. His team’s meteoric rise has been anything but.
In just four years as a varsity program, the Longhorns have gone from upstart to league power. In 2008, they cracked the state’s top 10, went 12-5, set multiple school records and pulled off a dramatic doubleheader sweep of Gunnison on the final weekend of the regular season to secure the school’s first 3A Western Slope crown.
Add one more accolade ” or two. Junior standout Alexa Aitken was recently named to the Denver Post’s All-State first team as an outfielder, and shortstop Jamie Matherly garnered honorable mention.
“I was surprised. It was the first time I ever got a call from a Denver Post reporter,” Bruce Matherly said Friday. “Getting this recognition is just a real tribute to this team and how much they have improved. … There are a lot of really good players out there who never get noticed.”
Aitken’s and Jamie Matherly’s statistics were difficult to overlook. Aitken went 10-3 on the mound, posting an ERA of 3.60 and striking out 79 batters in 68 innings. At the plate, she drove in a team-high 24 runs, compiled 24 hits and hit .586 ” the third-highest average in all of 3A. She set a school record with 22 steals, none bigger than her delayed swipe of home plate to score the game winner in the first game against Gunnison.
While she played sparingly in center, Aitken nabbed one of the first team’s three outfield spots. She was an honorable mention selection in 2007.
“It’s such an honor to be chosen. You don’t see that too much coming out Basalt,” Aitken said. “I thought this team would be building for so long. I didn’t think the benefits would catch up so soon. It’s such a surprise.”
Matherly led all of 3A with a .689 average, piling up 31 hits in 45 official at-bats. A mainstay in the middle of a Basalt lineup that scored 192 runs, the sophomore stole 17 bases and drove in 21.
“I didn’t expect it at all,” Matherly said. “There’s definitely a lot of competition out there, but I worked really hard.”
“Jamie had such a good year, especially offensively, and that got her noticed,” Bruce Matherly added. “It’s tough competing against upperclassmen, and it’s a tough position to get recognized. … The girl that they selected for [all-state] shortstop was on the state championship team and went 6-for-7 in the state tournament. It’s pretty hard to compete with that.”
Six players from the Western Slope garnered recognition. Such a number is proof, Bruce Matherly said, that both Front-Range bias and perceptions about Slope weakness are being modified.
“A lot of us feel the Western Slope probably doesn’t get the recognition it might deserve,” the coach added. “There are big papers [on the Front Range] and most teams are over there, so we feel like the east looks down its nose at some of our programs. … I’m real excited we’re finally getting recognized.”
Expect that trend to continue, particularly for a Basalt team that returns all of its starters in 2009. Being named to the All-State team does bring increased pressure, but Aitken said that’s a burden she’ll happily shoulder.
“Expectations will be higher for us, but it’s one of those fun rise to the challenge things,” she added.
“This has been such a great season. What a way to end it.”
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