Rifle hands Longhorns a 6-0 loss on Basalt’s new field
BASALT – New field, new uniforms, new attitude.Basalt’s young softball team lost its home opener Thursday to Rifle, but not before making it interesting, going toe-to-toe with the upperclassmen-laden 4A Western Slope champions for four scoreless innings before allowing six runs in the final three.All it took was one mistake in the fifth inning for Rifle to break open a scoreless pitchers duel between the Bears ace, Melissa Skinner, and Longhorns ace Alexis Aitken.
With two runners on, Rifle’s designated hitter Tamara Kaczmarek hit a routine fly ball to center field that Basalt center fielder Morgan Armbruster camped out underneath for what would have been the third out.Armbruster took her eye off the ball at the last second, however, and it bounced off the webbing in her glove – an error that allowed Rifle’s Chelsea Webb to trot home from second and give Rifle what ended up being the game-winning run.That the Longhorns (4-5 overall) went the full five innings against the Bears, and Skinner, was an accomplishment in itself. Skinner completely dominated a Basalt team that featured four first-team all-league players last season, throwing a perfect game in a 10-0 rout that was called after five innings.
Skinner was again overpowering Thursday, striking out six Longhorns in seven innings and facing the minimum number of batters in innings three through six. Still, the Longhorns – starting six freshmen and three sophomores – managed to keep the game close with error-free defense and clutch pitching from Aitken, who allowed four earned runs on seven hits.”When you’re playing a team like Rifle, who is 4A, and who is picked to win their league just like last year, all the little things are magnified,” Basalt coach Bruce Matherly said.
“As a team, we’re learning that you can’t have these little mistakes against a really good team and expect to stay in competition as the game goes on.” Aitken got into jams in the first and second, but bore down on the mound when it really mattered to throw hittable pitches that her defense turned into outs. With two runners on and one out in the first, Aitken gloved a line drive right back to her from Kaczmarek, then induced a ground ball from Marissa Wilkins that Basalt shortstop Jamie Matherly threw to first to end the inning.After walking Rifle’s Samantha Young in the second, then giving up a double to Tori Fazzi that put runners on second and third, Aitken again delivered, inducing flyouts from Amber Odekirk and Skinner.
“They did a really good job defensively,” Rifle coach Cindy Skinner said. “Everything we hit they seemed to be able to get to. That’s when we had to change our game plan a little bit, just trying to get the girls to back off that first pitch and get a better focus on the last two.”After scoring its first run, Rifle seized the momentum, adding another in the top of the fifth when Megan McWilliams stole home on a designed pitchout. The Bears struck for two runs in the top of the sixth off two hits, then added two more in the seventh when Wilkins roped a bases-clearing line drive to deep left field.
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