If you go
What: 2016 state softball tournament
When: Friday and Saturday, Oct. 21-22
Where: Aurora Sports Park, 19300 E. Colfax Ave.
FREDERICK — Frederick junior softball player Makenna Goodard came to tryouts this summer knowing she was a little versatile, particularly in that if the Warriors got in a pinch she'd be able to pitch.
It wasn't too long before the squeeze was put on head coach Roger Dufour's team. For myriad reasons, Alicia Hernandez and Brooklyn Johnson — the team's top two pitchers from 2015 who were going to be seniors — were not available when the first pitch of the fall season was thrown.
It was known right away, then, the Warriors would not have a true No. 1 ace in the circle and in fact would need several girls to get the team through seven innings. And while Dufour didn't have to resort to picking names out of a hat to get his rotation, there were some big questions as to whether Goodard and junior classmates Kaitlyn Reagin and Maddie McCullough to do enough to keep Frederick's success afloat.
As a Class 4A regional champion and one of the 16 teams left standing for the final weekend of Class 4A competition, it's safe to say they held up their end of the bargain.
"Losing those two top pitchers kind of changed everything, and we were really faced with some difficulties overall that first week just scratching our heads deciding what we were going to do," said Dufour, whose team begins state tournament play Friday afternoon against No. 11 Silver Creek. "After that first week, we kind of just pulled those three aside and said, 'it's time to grow up fast because instead of maybe our 3-4-5 (backup pitchers) you're going to be 1-2-3.
"They aren't dominant strikeout pitchers, so we try and get pop ups and grounders out of them and we've instilled the philosophy of pitching by committee. They've been doing a great job."
The Warriors were confident in their lineup from the outset of the season, and even though there were massive defensive shifts they were able to work their way through errors.
However, the junior trio that got the call for circle work had a combined four innings of varsity pitching — all four of those coming from Reagin in 2015.
Goodard simply saw it as a challenge they were all willing to accept.
"I think everything was tough on the team, but for us three we just came together and put our minds to it. We proved we could do it on our own," said Goodard, who has nine starts, a 4-2 record and a 3.80 earned-run average heading to Friday's play. "I wanted to prove that I could pitch, and I got that opportunity and I think I have proved a lot for myself. It's been a good season."
The Warriors did not get off to a hot start at 3-6 through nine games, but that run made the Tri-Valley League really look like a breeze. They lost both times to Erie but swept the rest of the league accounting for all 12 of their regular season wins.
Seeded 11th in regionals and placed in Region 6 where Mountain View hosted this past weekend, the Warriors put everything together with arguably its two biggest wins to date — beating Ponderosa 6-2 and then the host Mountain Lions 4-3 to win the title.
Dufour's eyes were opened to how those girls, and the team as a whole, has peaked at the right time.
"Even throughout the season I thought at times we weren't going to make it as far as I'd like, but fortunately here we are," Dufour said. "I thought we had a tough draw for regionals. Mountain View was a great hitting team, and regionals was definitely a test for them."
You're not going to see many softball teams at state with a bullpen like Frederick. While Reagin has earned a 9-5 record with a 3.48 ERA while pitching the most innings and McCullough has taken on a strict reliever role — she has two saves and a 1.91 ERA — there's no sure tell of who will start or when the relief will come.
The plan most of the season, though, has been that the opposition will not see the same pitcher for three at-bats.
"I think that approach has really helped us," Goodard said. "We feel like even if that batter hasn't hit us that the next girl coming in is also going to get them out. We've all been able to contribute to some of the wins we've had."
Overall, Frederick has won eight straight games entering Friday and as a team that has been to this point each of the past two years, an air of confidence surrounds them.
"We've been great at picking each other up, and we're not only on-the-field strong but in-the-dugout, emotionally strong," Goodard said.
Class 5A state tournament team capsules
2016 Record: 19-2
Regional performance: Beat Denver East 15-0 and Legacy 11-0 for Region1 title.
Outlook: The Eagles earned the top seed for the 5A tournament by blasting the Angels and Lightning this past weekend and will play No. 16 Cherry Creek in the first round on Friday. ... Broomfield's senior group has made the state tourney every year, making the semifinals twice, but will be looking to avenge last year's first round exit to Pomona. ... Broomfield as a team has hit .429 with 23 home runs — and senior Linnie Malkin led the squad in both categories (.620 and 10, respectively). ... Taylor Gilmore, another senior, hit .472 with seven bombs while at the same time pitching her way to a 1.12 ERA with 160 strikeouts in 117 innings. ... Avery Bohn and Matti Morales have been hit machines, as well. ... Defensively, it doesn't get much better than the Eagles having just 18 errors all year.
2016 record: 15-7
Regional performance: Lost 11-0 to Broomfield in regional championship but beat Castle View twice (14-3 and 17-10) to qualify.
Outlook: The Lightning have occupied a place at state quite frequently over the past 15 years or so but have not been there since 2013 when they won the 5A title. They'll begin this go round as the 15th seed and a potential Cinderella story leading off against No. 2 Cherokee Trail. ... Legacy plated 31 runs in two regional wins and for the season averaged 10 runs a contest. ... Emily Taggart's numbers certainly suggest her place among the best ever for Legacy, as the senior hit .596 with 21 extra-base hits and a team-most 30 RBI. ... Lauren Strathearn had a mind boggling 42 hits and 24 steals prior to regional play. ... Legacy has relied on a freshman-sophomore pitching combo with Isabella Kelly and Hannah Farley, two pitchers with good control and who will let their defense work for them.
Class 4A state tournament team capsules
2016 record: 21-0
Regional performance: Beat Montrose 12-0 and Berthoud 10-0 for Region 1 title.
Outlook: With its unblemished record so far in 2016, the Tigers have won 35 of their past 36 games and enter the 4A tournament as the No. 1 seed. That means a first-round matchup against No. 16 Pueblo South. ... Erie has outscored opponents by a 216-27 count, and 12 of those runs allowed came against Broken Arrow, Okla. early in the year. It is riding a streak of just one run allowed in five games. ... Those numbers start with pitching, where Rio Sanchez has a 0.74 ERA with 211 strikeouts in 114 innings (she has walked just 28). The Tigers have been solid defensively, too. ... Offensively, six players on the roster have at least 22 RBI and four full-timers are better than .403. ... Freshman Kat Sackett has been spectacular (.352 BA, team-leading six home runs). ... Erie last won state in 2010, its 11th time in the sport.
2016 record: 14-7
Regional performance: Beat Ponderosa 6-2 and Mountain View 4-3 for Region 6 title.
Outlook: The Warriors' record might not look sparkling, but considering the team started 3-6 and Frederick has won eight straight including a tough regional, they are no fluke. ... Among its losses? Erie twice, 5A Legend, 5A Grandview, defending 4A champ Valor Christian and runner-up Wheat Ridge. ... FHS, seeded sixth, enters Friday's first round against Silver Creek with a trio of pitchers who have gotten things done all year despite not being overpowering arms. Kaitlyn Reagin gets the majority of the starts but Makenna Goodard and Maddie McCullough have been extremely reliable, as well. ... The Warriors are best at the move-'em-and-score-'em game, with 70 stolen bases as a team.
Silver Creek Raptors
2016 record: 18-4
Regional performance: Lost 8-6 to Air Academy in Region 7 championship but beat Windsor twice (9-2 and 8-4) to qualify.
Outlook: Silver Creek's seventh straight tournament appearance begins with an area foe as the No. 11 Raptors face No. 6 seed Frederick in Friday's first round. It pits a pair of teams that have only played twice in recent history (2009 and 2014). ... With 30 home runs among nine players, the Raptors pack a punch. They hit six homers during regional play, including two apiece from Jetta Nannen and Dana Dwyer. ... In all, Silver Creek has 254 runs (fourth in Colorado) to its credit. Nannen has knocked in 40 of those. ... Dwyer, Nannen and Kendra Green are control pitchers who can get a strikeout when they need it. ... Silver Creek will be look for at least a quarterfinals appearance for the second consecutive season.