Longhorns sweep up against visiting Rifle
The Aspen Times
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
BASALT, Colorado – Basalt baseball player Blake Scherer said his team has been struggling all season to come up with that one key hit.
They came in bunches Saturday. Talk about perfect timing.
The Longhorns strung together five straight hits in the fifth inning of Saturday’s doubleheader opener with Rifle, sparking a two-out, three-run rally that gave Basalt a
5-3 advantage. Scherer tacked on an insurance run with a solo home run in the sixth, and the Longhorns pulled out a 6-3 win.
The Basalt bats stayed hot in Game 2. The home team amassed 13 hits, battled back from an early deficit, received some clutch pitching and defense and escaped with an 11-10 victory.
More good news followed Saturday evening: By virtue of Grand Valley’s doubleheader sweep of Gunnison and Hotchkiss’ sweep of Coal Ridge, Basalt (6-12) secured the 3A Western Slope’s sixth and final postseason spot.
“That’s really going to pump these kids up,” said Longhorns head coach Mike Hoffman, whose squad closed out the regular season with three consecutive wins.
Basalt had to come from behind in both games Saturday. It trailed, 4-3, after four in the opener, and the fifth inning did not start off favorably; Tanner Banc singled, then Scherer grounded into a double play.
Scott Hoffman and Kyp Schoon gave Basalt life with back-to-back singles, then No. 6 hitter Spencer Glasener came through in the clutch. He was fooled on a curveball from Rifle starter Hunter Finger, but Glasener stuck the bat out and flicked a lazy fly ball over shortstop and into shallow left, plating two to give the Longhorns a 4-3 lead.
Cody Hoffman prolonged the big inning with a ringing RBI single back up the middle.
“That little rally was something we haven’t done much of all year,” Scherer said. “In that first game, everyone came through.”
Added Mike Hoffman: “Our whole lineup was hitting. When the bottom of the order is hitting and getting on base, we’re a different team.”
Schoon made the lead stand up. The right hander worked around leadoff singles from Cody Chick and Danny Bartels in the top of the sixth, inducing a dribbler to short to start a double play, then a weak groundout to second base.
In the seventh, Schoon gloved a sharp grounder and threw to Scherer at second base to start a 1-6-3, game-ending double play that caused the home dugout to erupt.
Chick finished with two hits and a RBI and Finger doubled twice and drove in one for the postseason-bound Bears, who now are 12-7. Nate Schilt added a RBI single in the fourth.
Kenny Resch paced the home team with three hits while Austin Vannice, Scott Hoffman and Scherer each had two for the Longhorns.
Basalt touched up Rifle pitching for 14 hits in the opener.
“We’ve just got to do our part and win this next one,” Scherer said after Game 1. “Then, we have to hope for some luck.”
The Longhorns did their part on a pristine day in the midvalley.
Nothing came easily in Game 2, though, as Rifle jumped out to a 5-3 lead after two innings. The Bears threatened to blow the game wide open in the third, loading the bases with no outs.
Scott Hoffman was summoned to relieve starter Scherer. He escaped the jam without allowing a run, inducing a fielder’s choice, a strikeout and a groundout.
“That was a big turning point,” coach Hoffman said.
Basalt generated four runs in the bottom of the inning. Scherer hit a run-scoring triple, Schoon followed up his two-run shot in the first with a RBI single and Glasener drove in Schoon with a double, then sprinted home on a wild pitch to give the Longhorns a 7-5 edge.
Rifle scored twice in the fourth and three times in the fifth inning, building a 10-8 cushion. Basalt answered right back, however, scoring three in the sixth courtesy of RBI singles from Mark Barto, Banc and Scherer, who had three hits in Game 2.
Schoon made a diving catch in left to start off the seventh, and the Longhorns soon finished off the Bears.
“He was playing deep and there was a blooper. He ran up there, dove for it, tumbled and rolled and came up with the ball in the glove,” coach Hoffman said. “That sealed the deal.”
And sealed an unlikely playoff berth. Playoff pairings are slated to be released Wednesday.
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