Rams tally 18 runs in first win of season | PostIndependent.com

Rams tally 18 runs in first win of season

Jon Maletz
Aspen Correspondent
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Photo by Jim Ryan

EL JEBEL, Colorado ” Roaring Fork baseball player Clay Gross identifies dominant opposing pitching as the primary culprit of his team’s 0-5 start.

“We faced some pitchers that just blew us away,” the freshman said.

Funny. Gross did just that to Basalt on Tuesday.

He struck out eight Longhorns in three innings and combined with Alex Rascon to surrender just three hits and no runs in five innings.

The Rams’ bats also sizzled on a brisk day in El Jebel, erupting for 11 hits and 18 runs ” including nine during a marathon fourth inning ” in a game shortened because of the mercy rule.

“We have been struggling mightily, and we had a heart-to-heart last night,” Roaring Fork coach Tim Nieslanik said. “We haven’t had any confidence at the plate or in the field and the kids just haven’t been ready to play. … Today was different.”

Much different.

Three Rams ” Rascon, Jake Strack-Loertscher and Trent Reed ” had three hits and every player in the lineup scored at least one run.

Roaring Fork was equally as impressive on the mound.

Gross’ third appearance of the season proved to be the charm. He routinely kept Basalt (1-3 overall, 1-2 in the 3A Western Slope League) off balance, spotting the fastball to get ahead in the count, then changing speeds ” and buckling knees ” with a sharp-breaking curve ball.

Gross was tested early, when Longhorns shortstop Blake Scherer and second baseman Tanner Banc led off the bottom of the first with singles. He responded in dominating fashion, striking out seven consecutive hitters.

“I was just like, ‘You got to stick with it and keep throwing strikes,'” Gross said. “Especially when you’re the away team, when you put runs on the board you have a lot more confidence out on the field.”

Gross had all the insurance he needed on this day. Roaring Fork pushed across two runs in each of the first three innings ” two on sacrifice flies from Strack-Loertscher and Dana Holley, two on fielder’s choices from Shea Nieslanik and Mike Black, one on a bases-loaded walk and another on an error.

The Rams then broke things wide open during a fourth inning in which they amassed six hits and scored nine times. Matt Alberico, Rascon and Strack-Loertscher had RBI singles, and Reed drove in two with a double to the gap in left center.

Roaring Fork also pushed across two runs on passed balls and two on Longhorns’ fielding miscues. Basalt committed six errors in the game.

“We just died right there,” first-year Longhorns head coach Bud Hickman said of the fourth. “It’s baseball. You’ve got to field and throw, and we didn’t do either one.”

Gross, Rascon and Strack-Loertscher hit consecutive RBI singles in the fifth as the Rams continued to pull away. Rascon and Strack-Loertscher were a combined 6-for-8 with five RBIs.

Six Roaring fork players had at least one hit.

“From one through nine, everyone stepped up and did their job,” Nieslanik said. “We were aggressive at the plate, and the pitchers did a great job.”

Gross worked around two walks in the third, then handed the ball over to Rascon for the final two innings. Rascon struck out two in the fourth, then punched out Scherer and Banc after a one-out single from Eric Paides to seal the win.

“It feels cool to be a big part of the team as a freshman and to help us get our first win,” Gross said.

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