LONGMONT — Coming off back-to-back seasons in which it exceeded expectations, the Longmont softball team believes the fall of 2018 could be the campaign it has been building towards and might truly be the Trojans' breakout year.
So far this fall, there's little evidence to the contrary.
Two weeks into the 2018 season, the Trojans boast a 6-0-1 record and have a 67-30 run differential. They remain unbeaten and are riding a five-game winning streak. For players like senior Sherena Simmons, who was a sophomore two years ago when the Trojans reached the regional round for the first time in recent memory, this season's hot start has given them a more promising feeling than they've had before.
"We've been working better as a team this year," Simmons said. "We have a lot of returners so we already know each other and we've bonded more. Most of our varsity and JV teams are returning players. We know that we made it to regionals the last two years and we really have that urge to make it to state this year. That would be a big deal for the team because it has been a long time and being the first team in all those years to make it to state would be a good feeling for us."
In 2016 and 2017, slow starts frequently doomed the Trojans and slowed similarly promising seasons. Head coach Kelsey Walters said correcting that issue and scoring early in games, as well as scoring in general, has been a key factor in this season's early hot streak.
Through seven games, the Trojans are averaging 3.7 runs scored in the first inning. Simmons (.571) is one of five players batting .500 or better. Junior Angeline Mitchell leads the Trojans with a .700 average, 13 RBIs and 10 extra-base hits including two home runs.
"I think we have a really well-seasoned team and our team chemistry is the best that I've ever coached," Walters, who is in her fourth season at Longmont, said. "We made it a goal to come out and overcome what we struggled with last year, and that meant come out and score right away. We've done that and it has really set the pace."
With a team ERA of 4.60, the Trojans know they have to pitch more effectively in order to accomplish the lofty goal of reaching the state tournament that has narrowly eluded them for the past two seasons. They have won 11 games in each of the past two seasons but failed to win a game at regionals in either year.
"We have goals to make it to state and to be one of the top teams in the conference again," Walters said. "We had some injuries and some things that happened that were out of our control last season and they were big factors in not helping us to succeed. But hopefully we can stay healthy and I feel like I can count on anybody at any time so we feel pretty good about our chances.
"We have a tough league and we play some tough teams. Getting to play a bunch of games early, I think, helped us prepare for what will be a tough stretch coming up."
The Trojans will play Northridge on Tuesday and then will have a break before playing a tough road contest Sept. 4 against cross-town rival Silver Creek (6-1), which is currently ranked No. 2 in Class 4A by the CHSAANow.com poll.