BROOMFIELD — The huddles between innings on Saturday just seemed to get more and more tight for the Broomfield softball team. So, too, did a wave of smiles bouncing from one girl to the next as they got closer and closer to beating Northglenn in a home game and improving their record to 12-8-1 on the season.
Softball is fun again for these girls, which is something many of them could not have said three weeks ago.
Unforeseen circumstances, both physically and administratively, sure did park a wrecking ball next to the Eagles dugout early in the season. With ace pitcher Lauren Klein having torn up her knee prior to their first game, and then having an internal issue involving head coach Paula Seifried that resulted in her resignation, the team literally could have split in half and tried to just regroup for 2019.
Instead, they have rallied around each other with a passion for the game driving them hard toward the finish line of the regular season and hopefully a Class 5A regional berth.
"I think that from the very beginning of the season, we knew we were going to have to work really hard and that since the beginning, we've come together and I don't think I've ever been closer with the girls, and I'm a senior," second baseman Olivia Kloster said after the Eagles completed a two-game, split-doubleheader sweep of Poudre and the Norse on the BHS varsity diamond. "There's something special that's going on this year with us as a group."
"We've been really excited every day since we heard (interim head coach Kale Gilmore) was going to come and help us out, and we've been enjoying practice and just loving the game," sophomore Hadlee Reichert said. "It's just super-fun right now."
Seifried was placed on administrative leave on September 4 amidst allegations of misconduct and a police report later revealed she allegedly had a physical altercation with one of her players. According to the report, a number of girls went to the athletic director with a complaint, and while she was not charged with anything it did result in the resignation.
Assistants Phil Kessler and Courtney Harrelson were thrust into the active role of trying to keep the girls focused on softball initially, and Gilmore was then brought in having some familiarity with the program and the school. His daughter, Taylor, was a four-year starter who graduated in 2017.
Just as the girls were excited to see him come in to help, he was excited to come in and provide some stability. Kessler has also remained on the staff, and Harrelson has resumed her duties as the head junior varsity coach.
"I've been involved with Broomfield in the baseball program for a long time, and Broomfield is a real special place for me with my daughter having come through here," Kale Gilmore said. "Mister (Steve Shelton) called me and asked if I'd help out, and I didn't have to think twice about it.
"Any time you lose your No. 1 right out of the gate, you're already facing adversity. All the other things that went on ... when you face adversity, you're either going to go down or they're going to fight. They've chosen not to look back."
The tradition-rich Eagles seem to be in the right place of mind at the moment. Since the Erie Tournament of Champions, they've gone 8-3 with six Front Range League wins.
One of those wins was against top-ranked Loveland back on September 13, a 3-2 victory that Kloster said was a clear revealing moment about the pride of the team and the potential they still had.
Kloster also added that Gilmore and Kessler have been nothing but positive influences for the squad.
"(Loveland) was definitely a turning point," Kessler said. "I don't think that I've seen more excitement out of my girls than at that point, and it was cool to see this little switch go on, like, 'we've got this rally'. Ever since then, we kind of know we can go far in this.
"We know that (Gilmore) is going to put in a lot of work, and that makes us want to work extra hard for him. Coach Kessler, he came in and didn't know any of us, and to be put in the position of, 'now I'm the head coach' for a couple of weeks, he embraced that. We're blessed to have both of them, for sure."
The Eagles have two league games left, one on Tuesday against Legacy (4:15 p.m. at Legacy) and the other against area foe Mountain Range. A top-three league standing is still very possible with some help and a couple of wins themselves, but their RPI — 20th prior to the Saturday sweep — has them in good position to make the playoffs.
"From the first day I've been out here, they've done nothing but work hard, be focused and they've embraced the process of things as a young group," Gilmore said. "Lauren is still here supporting the girls every day and still is a big part of what we do, and we're looking forward because there's a lot of good things happening here."