Tough test awaits for Basalt baseball |

Tough test awaits for Basalt baseball

Jon Maletz
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
Jim Ryan/Special to The Aspen TimesLonghorns shortstop Blake Scherer jumps to haul in an errant throw at second base during May 7's doubleheader against Rifle at Basalt High School. The Longhorns kick off postseason play at 10 a.m. Saturday in Bennett.

BASALT – The Basalt baseball team has fared better against unfamiliar opponents this season.

Longhorns coaches might want to keep their players in the dark about Bennett, the No. 3 seed in this year’s 32-team 3A state tournament and No. 30 Basalt’s opening round opponent Saturday.

The more information he gathers about the Tigers, the more formidable the challenge appears, assistant Rick Ryan admitted Thursday.

“These guys give up nothing and they score a lot. There are not a lot of weaknesses we can exploit,” he said. “Usually, a team can either hit or pitch. They do both. … If we hit, hopefully we can make it a shootout. We’re probably going to have to score 15 to win.

“We’re glad we’re there. We can’t win a game if we’re not there. Other teams are turning in their uniforms, and we’re still getting some time.”

The Longhorns, who finished out the regular season with three straight wins to nab the Western Slope’s sixth and final playoff spot, are returning to postseason play for the second time in program history. Basalt didn’t make it out of the first round in 2006, falling to La Junta, 13-1, in a game shortened to five innings because of the mercy rule.

While not the lowest seed, the Longhorns own the worst record in the tournament at 6-12.

“Maybe our league is tough overall, and we’re getting some respect,” Ryan said. “If that’s the case, maybe we’ll do OK.

“[We won’t be intimidated], not with Scotty [Hoffman] and Blake [Scherer] and those guys. They can play anywhere with anybody. Our younger guys will just play. They don’t seem to panic or overthink it.”

Basalt will be a prohibitive underdog against a Bennett squad that is riding an 11-game win streak into postseason play. The Tigers (16-3) finished 9-0 in the Frontier, and their three losses were to tournament No. 2 seed Eaton, Kent Denver and 4A Falcon.

Bennett has belted 13 home runs and amassed a .391 team batting average – six different players are hitting .382 or better. Coal Wakeham leads the team with a .523 average and 33 RBI.

In addition, Wakeham is one of three Tigers pitchers with four or more wins.

“It’s a tough one. If they can keep the nerves away, that will help out a bunch,” Longhorns head coach Mike Hoffman said. “Steady bats will be our biggest thing. That’s been our weakness all season. If we do that, I’m sure we’ll keep right with them.”

The Longhorns enter Saturday’s game at less than full strength. Key contributor Tanner Banc will not be playing because of an off-the-field transgression.

In his absence, Basalt will be forced to shuffle its lineup. It will also need a strong outing from pitcher Kyp Schoon, who is 5-5 this season.

“Once again, we’re not staffing the field with our full varsity,” coach Hoffman said. “[Banc’s] bat will be well missed.”

Added Ryan: “In the first three innings we’ll be able to see if we’re scared or ready to play. If it gets to the fifth and it’s a tight game, you never know.

“With the seniors, this is kind of a reward. For the young guys, this is a chance to see what they’re shooting for down the road. The reality of it we’ll see afterward. If we can stick around, that would be great confidence for everybody. If not, we can at least say, ‘Hey, we got there.’ That’s something we didn’t think would happen a few weeks ago.”

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