Devils rally against Basalt for 13-3 victory
GYPSUM — A team always wants to make a statement in its opener.
Eagle Valley softball did just that on Tuesday afternoon at the Gypsum Sports Complex, overcoming a 3-0 deficit and defeating Basalt, 13-3, in six innings. The visiting Longhorns drubbed the Devils twice — 15-1 and 16-6 — last season by the 10-run rule, so Eagle Valley was quite happy to return the favor.
“For them to come back and fight like that, it shows that this is going to be a different season,” Eagle Valley’s new manager Carrie Rodgers said.
“Being on the team last year and not winning a lot of our games and getting crushed in a lot of our games was really disappointing,” center fielder Nichole Matthews said. “To come out here in our first game and take control really meant a lot to us.”
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Matthews had a very busy day, going 2-for-4, scoring two runs and driving in one run. She also fouled a pitch off Eagle Valley athletic director Tamara Payne’s truck in the sixth inning.
Matthews should avoid detention, however, as she made the catch of the game robbing Basalt’s Afton Larsen of extra bases with a snare in right-center.
That wasn’t the only web gem of the afternoon. Devils catcher Regan Bossow picked off Basalt’s Morgan Ash in the first inning and corralled a wild pitch and tagged out incoming Jordan Banc at the plate. Third baseman Lexi Valdez also speared a hard shot from the Longhorns’ Katie Johnson and threw her out at first.
These plays kept the Devils close because Basalt jumped out to an early 3-0 lead. Eagle Valley’s Cody Osteen had some early jitters and struggled with her command, walking four in the first inning. That along with an RBI double from Larsen put the Longhorns up 2-0 after one.
Basalt’s Megan Nieslanik plated Johnson with a single in the top of the third and all was going swimmingly for the visitors.
Everything changed when Longhorns starter Ash left the game with a shoulder injury in the bottom of the fifth. Ash is Basalt’s only returning pitcher with varsity experience.
“The positives are that we have some really young girls who are great. They put their bunts down when they needed to put their bunts down,” Basalt coach Marianne Gardner-Smith said. “We had a couple of good defensive plays. The negatives are the pitcher went out and we had to bring in girls who struggle.”
In fairness to the Devils, they left six runners on base in the first three innings alone, so Ash was good, but not Clayton Kershaw. And the Devils touched Ash for two runs before she departed.
And back they come
More importantly, Eagle Valley’s offense was patient and put the ball in play when the pitch was in the strike zone. Matthews, Caroline Paxson and Kylie King all had RBI singles in the fifth and Maddy Callis brought home another run with a sacrifice.
Eagle Valley sent 13 batters to the plate in the sixth and blew it open. The Devils drew five walks and a hit-by-pitch, and when they did hit the ball they put pressure on the Longhorns’ infield.
King knocked in two runs with a shot up the middle for a single. With the Devils leading 11-3 and with the bases loaded, Paxson stepped to the plate and drilled a bases-clearing double to left to end it.
“It felt amazing — just knowing it hit the perfect spot on my bat is the best feeling ever,” Paxson said.
Clarifying the 10-run rule, once the run scores that makes it a 10-run differential after five innings, the game is over. Even though in the natural course of play, Osteen scored what appeared to be Eagle Valley’s 14th run, the final goes down as 13-3.
Not that the Devils will be complaining about that. Eagle Valley (1-0) opens league play on Tuesday at Palisade. Meanwhile, Basalt hosts Rifle on Thursday.
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934, firstname.lastname@example.org and @cfreud.