Basalt secures third straight league softball crown |

Basalt secures third straight league softball crown

Jon Maletz The Aspen TimesBasalt's Jamie Matherly slides safely into third base as Gunnison's Gabby Kalow awaits a throw Saturday at Basalt High School.

BASALT – Basalt head softball coach Bruce Matherly wondered how this season would play out. He wondered how the Longhorns possibly could replace the production and leadership of two standouts lost to graduation.

All concerns have now been put to rest.

The three-peat is complete.

Basalt entered Saturday’s doubleheader against Gunnison needing just one win to clinch a third consecutive 3A Western Slope title. The Longhorns shook off an early deficit in Game 1, seized control with a five-run third inning and, behind the steady pitching of junior Katie King, pulled out an 11-6 victory on a brisk afternoon at Basalt High.

A few hours later, Basalt bested the Cowboys once more for good measure. The 11-7 win clinched a perfect conference record of 8-0, the right to host next weekend’s district tournament and, more important, secured the Longhorns’ spot in the state tournament, which starts in about two weeks.

“It’s exciting,” said King, who picked up complete-game wins in both games. “I’m glad I could be more a part of it this time. Everyone thought we were rebuilding, so to do it without Alexa [Aitken] and Abby [King], yeah, [that is gratifying].”

Perennial all-conference selections Aitken and Abby King helped form a talented nucleus for the Longhorns squads that won the Slope in 2008 and 2009. In both of those seasons, Basalt orchestrated some late heroics, sweeping dramatic doubleheaders against Gunnison on the final weekend of the regular season to secure the league crown.

The tables were turned this time around, as the Cowboys came into Saturday’s games trailing the Longhorns by two games in the conference standings.

“I can remember those first few years I was here, we were pushing ourselves hard to be No. 2. … Gunnison was always knocking us down,” Matherly said. “I think we felt a lot of pressure today. You’re thinking you just need one, but what if you drop the first game? How would [the girls] react?”

Such a scenario seemed like a very real possibility in Game 1. Basalt struck first in the opening inning, on a run-scoring triple from Katie King and sacrifice fly from senior Jamie Matherly, but the Cowboys answered right back with a two-out rally in the third.

Gabby Kalow drove in one with a ringing single to right, then cleanup hitter Leigh Stichter squared the game with a two-run double to wall in right center.

All momentum the Cowboys gained on offense was squandered with miscues in the field in the bottom of the inning. Three Gunnison errors yielded four unearned runs for the Longhorns. No. 9 hitter Connor Adams tacked on one more with a sacrifice fly, and Basalt took a 7-4 lead.

“This is not a cocky group, but they’re a quietly confident group,” coach Matherly said. “I think we’ve got good hitters up and down our lineup, and that [balance] is something we try to emphasize.”

Basalt plated two more runs in

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