Young Aspen High softball team looks to move on from losing streak
The best part about the Aspen High School softball team having so many young players is most of them don’t know much about the program’s recent history. At least, that’s how coach Dave Fuentes sees it.
“I don’t think it even matters to this group,” the fifth-year head coach said. “The returning girls know that we can win, so hopefully they can build on that with the rest of the girls. I think the underclassmen, the new players, aren’t really aware of the situation in terms of breaking that streak.”
The upperclassmen certainly know of the streak, as they were part of breaking it. The losing streak wasn’t counted in terms of games, but in terms of years. On Sept. 17, 2018, the Skiers beat Gunnison 19-18 on a random Monday in Delta. That win, the only win of the 2018 season for Aspen, was the program’s first since the 2009 season.
It was a feeling that group knew nothing about and had long sought.
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“It was amazing. The rush of being so close to winning and finally getting it was awesome,” AHS senior Sami Jaworski recalled during Thursday’s practice. “I feel pretty good. We lost quite a few people last season, but we’ve got some new recruits. … I would love to win some more games.”
The Skiers, who open their 2019 season on Saturday, have a lot to replace. They had eight seniors officially listed on last year’s roster, including starting pitcher Lexi Ferlisi and catcher Kaelin Harris. The only seniors on the roster this fall are Jaworski and Laney Martens, who look to fill those roles. Jaworski, a standout hockey goalie, will fill in behind the plate, while Martens moves from shortstop to the circle.
“It’s a big responsibility. I just hope that we lead them in the right direction,” Martens said of her new role as senior pitcher. “In this program it’s not (about) winning and losing, it’s about getting better every single day. And knowing that half these girls out here have never played ball before, it’s a nice, humbling thing to know we are coming out here from the bottom and we have to work our way up.”
While the team isn’t heavy on senior leadership, it does have some promising younger players. Hannah Popish, Nikki Harris and Lauren Kelley, all sophomores, have at least some varsity experience to lean on from last year and should mix well with the new freshmen.
“The good news is we have a really energetic bunch of freshmen. Our senior leadership is really stepping up and helping guide them, so that’s fun to see,” Fuentes said. “We’ve made a lot of progress in three days. We have a long way to go, but it’s fun to have some fresh perspective out here.”
The Skiers open the season Saturday with a doubleheader in Grand Junction against Durango, a team that went 10-13 a year ago but does have a new coach.
AHS will then host a doubleheader on Tuesday against Delta, which is ranked preseason No. 4 in Class 3A by CHSAANow.com.
The dream this season is for the upperclassmen to build off last season’s streak-ending win, while the younger players can rewrite a new legacy for the program.
“It was definitely a highlight of my career and probably of high school, as well. I wrote my senior speech about softball,” said Ferlisi, who was helping coach the team this week before she heads to California to restart her academic career at Chapman University. “I hope they can get a few wins under their belt and show us up a little. They are definitely better than we were as freshmen, so there is hope.”
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High school sports remain on hold until at least April 30, while a lost season is looking more and more likely