Basalt seeks redemption at state tourney
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
A school record for wins and a second consecutive 3A Western Slope title are secured. Now, the Basalt softball team will look to make its mark in postseason play.
The Longhorns (14-4) were unceremoniously ousted in the first round of last year’s state tournament. They’ll shoot for redemption and validation Friday. Basalt nabbed the eighth seed in this year’s tournament field, announced earlier this week. It will square off with No. 9 Platte Canyon (12-7) at 10 a.m. in Aurora.
Should it advance, a potential matchup with top-seeded Erie (18-1-1) looms later Friday.
“I think it’s a tough draw but, looking at the seeds, it seems things have been more fairly done this year,” Longhorns head coach Bruce Matherly said Wednesday. “I think we’d rather see Platte Canyon than Holy Family or Faith [Christian] or Erie … at that point in the [tournament]. But they’ll be a challenge for sure.”
Basalt, then the ninth seed, ran into No. 8 Faith Christian in the opening round last year. The Eagles rolled to a 23-0, mercy-rule shortened win.
“We went out with a thud, but Faith Christian wasn’t 23 runs better than us,” Matherly said. “We spotted them so many bases through walks and [hit batters] and hits here and there that we dug ourselves such a hole. They were pretty relaxed and swinging away, and we were trying to climb our way back in. It got out of hand fairly quickly.
“I think this is a better team … in large part because it’s the same team with just another year of experience. They’ve been there and gone through it.”
The Longhorns returned their entire roster from last season. That experience has paid dividends in 2009. Basalt is 14-2 since dropping the season’s first two games. Included in that stretch was a nine-game win streak from Sept. 5 to Oct. 1.
On the regular season’s final weekend, the Longhorns picked up two come-from-behind victories over Gunnison to clinch the Slope crown.
The next challenge looks to be a formidable one. Platte Canyon (12-7) finished third in a highly competitive Metropolitan conference that produced two of the state tournament’s top five seeds – No. 4 Holy Family (15-5) and No. 5 Faith Christian (17-3). The Huskies are 7-3 in their last 10 games and boast one of 3A’s most explosive offenses.
Five Platte players finished the regular season with batting averages of .450 or higher. Leading the way are junior sisters Jenny and Jessie Marshall. Jenny is hitting .557 – the second-best mark in the Metro – with 18 RBIs and 16 stolen bases. Jessie has driven in 42 runs – the fourth-highest total in all of 3A. The Huskies batted .379 as a team.
Jessie Marshall also struck out 107, walked just 16 and posted an ERA of 2.65 in 74 innings pitched.
“The girls know we can compete,” Matherly said. “The big thing is not getting wound up. We have to approach this as just the next game and try not to change what we’ve been doing to be successful this whole year.”
The Longhorns will lean on a balanced lineup that is hitting a combined .403. Alexa Aitken leads the team with a .520 average, 16 RBIs and 21 stolen bases. She is one of five players – Abby King (.511), Lane Calabro (.490), Kira Selucky (.400) and Jessie Anderson (.400) – hitting .400 or better. King, Calabro and Anderson each have driven in 15 runs.
Catcher Kenzie Kuhn, a Glenwood Springs High School student, leads the squad with 20 RBIs, while shortstop Jamie Matherly has driven in 18 and stolen 11 bases.
On defense, Basalt will need a strong outing from Aitken. The senior, who compiled a 3.28 ERA and struck out 80 in 89 2/3 innings during the regular season, hurled six shutout innings during her final tune-up in Thursday’s scrimmage with 4A Delta.
“This being her senior year, I think she’s ready for this,” Matherly said. “The whole team would like to send [seniors] Alex and Abby out on a high note if we can.
“Right now, it seems like we’re pretty dialed in. Maintaining that focus and maintaining that level of play will be the secret. … If we do what we’ve been doing all year, it should be a lot of fun.”
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