DENVER — The Downtown Showdown is no doubt a competition of clout in the Colorado prep softball scene, and the Frederick Warriors absolutely love to be a part of it.
With several teams involved that have won state titles over the past two or three years bringing their best early efforts to the Metro State Regency Complex in Denver, the Warriors knew Saturday their first big challenges of this season came on the well-maintained turf field that's the home of the NCAA Division II Roadrunners.
And, yes, the lineups for Class 5A's Dakota Ridge and Cherokee Trail made for a long morning at the park, despite all the effort Frederick put up on the offensive end, too. The Warriors scored 19 runs on 26 hits for the day, but it was not enough to secure either game as they dropped 14-8 and 18-11 decisions to the Eagles and Cougars, respectively.
"I was pleasantly surprised with the way we were able to produce runs today, in both games, but we just have to clean some things up here and there," said head coach Roger Dufour, whose team is 1-6 in three years of the tournament, albeit most of those games against elite 5A foes. "Maybe those are closer games if we are cleaner. This second game, Cherokee Trail just has tons of hitting, but we come out of the day knowing we can produce on offense."
After a near three-hour affair against the Eagles that saw Dakota Ridge score six runs in the 10th inning, Frederick was forced to gather its bearings immediately for a second game against the Cougars, the 2016 5A champs.
It appeared the Warriors had brushed off any emotions from losing, though, as they came out hitting hard against CT's Ashley Quinn. Peyton Gale's triple was followed by hits from Jayden Horner, Peyton Putallez and Kaitlyn Howell — and just like that it was 3-0.
While Frederick slowed down temporarily over the next few innings, Cherokee Trail (7-0) managed to plate three runs of its own in the first and then add two more in the second and five in the third. The Cougars collected 10 hits in the process of building that 10-3 lead.
A Gale home run in the top of the fifth made it 10-5, but a newer-to-varsity pitching staff just could not hold down the connections off Cougars bats.
After coming in having allowed just seven total runs in three games, Frederick's pitchers allowed a total of 26 earned runs on Saturday.
"We'll see some good players throughout our league, and our pitching is not as dominant as it has been in the past, but we have to back it all up by putting of runs for them," Dufour said.
Gale, a sophomore, is one of those pitchers who is hoping to bring some stability to the circle sooner rather than later. She said Saturday's slugfests showed her and her teammates that they could hit any pitcher that gets thrown at them — it's just a matter of settling down when out on defense.
"I think we did pretty good for playing against 5A teams today ... and we definitely need to work on some things but I think we'll be okay with some good practices this week," Gale said. "Being one of those pitchers out there, and I know I have to go in for my team and help them out. Playing tougher teams will help us when it comes to facing our league games. For me, I need to hit spots better and also know that my team will back me up if I give up a hit.
"We love coming down here and playing on a college field."
Of note, Howell had six total hits on the day including four solid singles out of the No. 7 lineup slot in game two. Abby Hazlett had four RBIs on the day, and Tori Dufour had four hits and stole a base.
Frederick will host 5A Horizon on Tuesday before being challenged again in the Erie Festival of Champions next weekend.
Dakota Ridge 14, Frederick 8
At Metro State Regency Softball Field
Dakota Ridge 250 001 000 6 — 14 13 2
Frederick 010 700 000 0 — 8 12 4
L — Mel Elkins.
Frederick hitting (ab-r-h-rbi) — Tori Dufour 5-1-2-2, Abby Hazlett 5-0-1-1, Peyton Gale 6-1-2-0, Lexie Elkins 5-2-2-0, Jayden Horner 5-0-1-0, Peyton Putallez 3-0-1-0, Kaitlyn Howell 5-1-2-2, Ali Davis 5-1-1-1, Alena Jaramillo 4-0-0-0, Bella Hewitt 0-1-0-0, Eli Clapp 0-1-0-0. Totals 43-8-12-6.
Frederick pitching (ip-h-r-er-bb-so) — Peyton Gale 2-6-7-3-2-1, Mel Elkins 7.1-7-7-7-5-2, Emilee Hurtado 0.1-0-0-0-0-1.
Cherokee Trail 18, Frederick 11
At Metro State Regency Softball Field
Frederick 300 024 2 — 11 13 3
Cherokee Trail 325 044 x — 18 16 2
L — Gale.
Frederick hitting (ab-r-h-rbi) — Tori Dufour 6-2-2-0, Abby Hazlett 4-2-2-3, Peyton Gale 4-3-2-3, Lexie Elkins 4-0-0-0, Jayden Horner 3-0-2-1, Peyton Putallez 4-0-1-1, Kaitlyn Howell 4-1-4-0, Ali Davis 4-1-0-0, Alena Jaramillo 1-0-0-0, Eli Clapp 1-1-0-0, Lauren Swenson 1-0-0-0, Bella Hewitt 0-0-0-0, Kyla Mares 0-1-0-0.
Frederick pitching (ip-h-r-er-bb-so) — Emilee Hurtado 1-4-3-3-0-0, Peyton Gale 2.2-6-7-5-4-0, Mel Elkins 2.1-6-8-8-5-0.