The Assault hit Grand Junction |

The Assault hit Grand Junction

Jon Maletz
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. ” Had the Assault brought their bats to the Triple Crown World Series in Grand Junction, they might have pulled off the improbable.

Instead, the All-Star team consisting of 10 players from Aspen and Basalt high schools struggled mightily at the plate in its five games. Despite stellar pitching and defense, the Assault came away with just one win.

Those results did little to dampen coach Rick Ryan’s enthusiasm, however.

“It was the first time kids from this age group have gone there, and they definitely held their own,” said Ryan, whose team clinched a spot in World Series by finishing second at a tournament in Fort Collins earlier this summer. “With a little hitting, we very well could’ve gone the distance. We didn’t need many breaks, that’s for sure.”

The team’s offensive woes surfaced in its opening game Monday against the Grand Junction Sticks. The Assault scored three times in the opening inning, but did not push across a run during the final nine innings of a 4-3 extra-innings loss.

Aspen starter Anderson Cole struck out three in the first two innings, but, because of stringent rules on pitchers (hurlers were restricted to pitching just eight innings all week), Ryan was forced to go to the bullpen. Assault pitchers held the Sticks scoreless through the first four, but could not maintain the lead.

“They were named the Sticks for good reason,” Ryan said. “The extra innings really hurt our pitching.”

The Assault kept East Lake, Washington, at bay in the second game Tuesday morning, but their bats lacked punch once more in a 5-1 loss.

“We just couldn’t come up with the big hit,” Ryan said.

At least until a game against a familiar foe Tuesday afternoon. The Assault had twice played and lost to the squad from Carbondale and Glenwood during the summer. This time, however, a group of Skiers provided some timely production to change the Assault’s fortunes.

Cole dazzled in his second appearance, striking out nine batters in four innings while allowing just one hit. Fellow Aspen players Taylor Mayer and Chris Dreher each hit two-run doubles, providing all the offense the Assault needed en route to a 4-0 win.

“This was a big game, and we wanted to beat them when it counted most,” Ryan said. “Anderson was unbelievable. This was the game we wanted him to pitch the most, and he worked so fast and dominated. They tried stepping out to slow him down, but he was in the zone.

“Anderson may have been the best pitcher in the whole tournament. If we could’ve used him for 12 innings over three days like in high school, nobody would’ve touched him. … He’s going to dominate the [3A Western Slope] next year.”

By virtue of the victory, the Assault was seeded fifth out of 12 teams, which included squads from New Mexico, Utah and Illinois, among others, entering the double-elimination championship bracket.

Starter Scott Hoffman led the way in the opening innings Wednesday against Montrose as the Assault took a 1-0 lead into the bottom of the sixth. From there, however, the team’s defense uncharacteristically unraveled. Multiple miscues resulted in nine Montrose runs and, ultimately, an eight-run loss.

The disappointment continued one day later when the Assault dropped a 4-1 game to the Sticks, ending all title hopes.

Not all was lost, however. Cole, Hoffman, Dreher and infielder Blake Scherer were named to the tournament’s All-Star team and participated in an exhibition Friday. Hoffman, who will be a sophomore at Basalt this fall, fared best among the group with two hits.

While his team’s offense struggled, Ryan said the Assault’s overall performance against a talented field was a hit.

“The kids took their game to another level, and they all played so well,” Ryan said. “They should be really proud of that.”

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