LOUISVILLE -- She is a two-time state champion, an odds-on favorite to win a third and has given a verbal commitment to Colorado State.
But in the summer, Haley Hutton is a Colorado Warrior.
She is best known as the do-it-all shortstop at Valley, a Gilcrest-based high school that has posted successive Class 3A championships. She is a leadoff hitter who packs a punch with a devastating left-handed stroke and sizzles equally defensively.
But make no mistake, Hutton has played more games in a Warriors uniform than that of the Valley Vikings. She is amidst her third season with the summer club team operated by Centaurus softball coach Mike Lujan.
"When I saw her at 14, I was kicking myself for not taking her," Lujan said. "We were a 16-and-under team and I thought she should stay with the younger girls for awhile. When she came to our team the next year, she made it so much better."
Hutton and the Warriors have gone 3-3 through three days of the Louisville Slugger Independence Day Tournament, playing in the 32-team Louisville 18-and-under draw.
The top six finishers in this division earn a spot in Boulder's 80-team field next season. Bracket play begins Saturday.
"I've always liked it here," Hutton said. "With club, you get a lot more experience. Depending on the tournament, it can be a little more intense than high school ball. But not by much."
Not many high school players have been afforded the luxury of playing in the number of state-level games that Hutton has, so she's qualified to discuss the topic. Her older sister, Taylor, already is at CSU and just completed her freshman season as a utility player for the Rams.
"She adapted well," Haley Hutton said. "It was fun seeing her on TV. That's something I have to get used to, though. It was weird."
Hutton sometimes flips over to the right side when at the plate, a trait she says she is going to carry with her to college.
She led off Friday's second game with a ground-rule double (left-handed), but the day didn't prove to be rosy overall for the Warriors. After going 3-1 through the first two days of the tournament, they lost the morning game 4-0 to the Missouri Originals Gold then had their comeback attempt expire (literally) in a 9-8 loss to the Kansas City Peppers.
The Warriors provided no run support for pitcher Tayler Hall in the opener, then committed four errors on the first four batters against the Peppers in falling into an early 5-0 crater.
The deficit reached 9-2, but the Warriors came storming back. They trimmed it to 9-8 when Lindsey Shiels-Brophy ripped a grand slam to left-center field in the bottom of the fifth. Umpires enforced the 90-minute time limit after the inning, though only 82 minutes had been played.
"We felt like there was eight minutes left, but we can't fight that," Lujan said. "It was still a good way to end, especially going into bracket play. Hopefully we won't give them all those runs in the beginning next time."
The Warriors now enter the single-elimination portion of the tournament, a one-and-done scenario that now appears more daunting than when they were sitting 3-0 in pool play.
"We just lost some momentum," Lujan said. "Our pitching had been dominant up to that point."
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