40-year hitting streak extended
by Than Acuff
Amidst all of the attention being given to Alex Rodriguez for the all-time hitting lists he is climbing, Crested Butte has an athlete on a record streak who has been overlooked by the national media. It’s up to me to bring this feat to the attention of the general public.
On Thursday night at Pitsker Field, Avalanche player Ron “Ronco” Chlipala extended his hitting streak to 40 years. That’s right, Ronco has had a base hit in 40 consecutive seasons—that’s longer than A-Rod has been alive. And he’s done it all without steroids, as far as I know, though the local softball league has no drug testing program. If they did have drug testing I suspect they would find a lot, but steroids would be the last thing they would find.
It was a historic occasion Thursday night. Over the winter, Pitsker Field was on the chopping block as the town of Crested Butte and the Arts people looked to find a way to expand the Center for the Arts building.
That didn’t happen and so softball continues at Pitsker. Not only was that historical, but so were some of the players. If you take Ronco’s years in the local leagues and add in Avalanche occasional player/manager Jim Schmidt and KBUT player Jerry Heal, that’s like 173 years of local softball league lineage, give or take a decade, playing that night at Pitsker.
Unfortunately, the vast years of experience did not play out as hoped, and KBUT edged out a 7-6 win over the Avalanche.
The Avalanche sputtered through the first two innings, falling behind 3-1 after two innings as KBUT’s “butt-tight” defense held the Avalanche offense in check.
After a scoreless effort by the Avalanche in the top of the first, KBUT opened the scoring in the bottom of the first inning. Carson West and Allison Gipple started it off with a couple of base hits and Will Mixon drove West home with KBUT’s third base hit in a row. Andrew Arnold doubled and then Andy Frank drove in two more KBUT runs on a single to centerfield.
Recognizing the sleepy state the Avalanche was in through the first inning, Schmidt made the call early to wake up the team, at least the ones old enough to drink.
“Ok, open up some beers,” instructed Schmidt.
The move appeared to play out as Sam Reaman, who cannot enjoy beers due to his age, led things off with a solo inside the park home run (ITPHR). Gabi Prochaska, Ian Dethloff and Jill Lindros then connected for a succession of singles and the Avalanche was poised for a big inning with the bases loaded and no outs.
That is, until KBUT tightened up on defense once again. KBUT shortstop Mixon chased down a fly ball in shallow left to make a grab and then fired to third for a double play and the next Avalanche batter hit into a force out at third to hold the Avalanche to one run when all was said and done.
KBUT tacked on another run in the bottom of the second inning when Heal doubled to deep right field, Scott Stewart hustled for an infield single and West pushed home a runner with an error-assisted RBI single.
Ben Reaman threw in his two cents for the Avalanche offense with a solo ITPHR, but KBUT responded as Mixon doubled and then scored on a single by Heather Heinz to maintain their three-run lead.
The Avalanche defense then tightened the reigns to hold off a possible KBUT rally and backed up their defense with a four-run rally in the top of the fourth.
Dethloff, Lindros and Mark Reaman each tapped hits to load the bases again with no outs. Diane Markowitz pushed one run across with a fielder’s choice RBI and then Ben Reaman cleared the bags with a three-run ITPHR to put the Avalanche on top 6-5.
The celebration was short-lived though as KBUT tied the game 6-6 in the bottom of the sixth. Shawn Harrington doubled and then scored on a base hit by Heather Bischoff and while the Avalanche still had a chance to retake the lead in the top of the seventh inning, KBUT’s “butt-tight” defense came into play.
Maggie Dethloff led off with a single for the Avalanche but the KBUT infield turned a 4-6-3 double play and then grabbed the following fly ball to keep the game tied 6-6 heading into the top of the seventh.
KBUT made quick work on offense to ultimately win the game. Stewart led off with a triple, Heinz singled and Ed Dujardin sealed the deal with the game-winning RBI base hit for the 7-6 KBUT win.