Shelby Grandt knew from the very beginning of the summer that she had to make sure there were no class clashes on the Broomfield softball team.
If the Eagles were going to go anywhere in 2013, she thought, she and the other upper classmen were going to have to accept the fact that a talented group of freshmen were going to be a big part of the team.
Months later, the Eagles are knocking at the doorstep of a state championship.
As one of just two seniors, Grandt has been an influential piece of the puzzle for the Eagles, who enter Friday’s state tournament at the Aurora Sports Complex with a 14-6 overall mark. She is the primary pitcher, of course, but also bats third in the lineup — ahead of three consecutive freshmen hitters.
Ask anyone around the team, whether it’s teammates or coaches, and they’ll tell you Grandt’s composure in game situations has helped the Eagles avoid disaster with 13 of 18 players on the roster being freshmen or sophomores.
“She’s more of a leader by example, and our other senior (Karli Hughes) is more the vocal leader, so as long as Shelby keeps her composure on the mound and expects a lot from her teammates, they rise and they keep their composure,” said coach Paula Seifried, whose team plays Pueblo West at 10 a.m. in Friday’s first round.
“If she’s down, the rest of us are down and if she’s up the rest of us are up, so she’s worked really hard to just keep us up,” said Taylor Gilmore, the team’s No. 5 hitter.
Gilmore added that Grandt and Hughes took the team under their wings very early on, a gesture that has not been forgotten.
“For our summer workouts, the first time we all gathered in a circle and (Grandt and Hughes) introduced themselves and were very supportive,” she said. “They just told everyone to come out and have fun. At the beginning of school, they took us out to lunch and made sure to know all our names, just super supportive of everything we did. It really meant a lot.”
“I knew that I had to bring in the freshmen and make us more of a team rather than having it like, ‘Oh, we’re seniors so we’re much better than everyone.’ Which isn’t true,” Grandt said. “We still have to work together as a team and I knew I had to get my job done in the circle to help us out. I just wanted to bring us closer together as a team so we could work together on the field.”
With the on-the-field, off-the-field leadership established, Grandt’s physical performance has also been top-notch. She boasts a 2.43 earned run average and 11 wins after going 12-8 with a 3.98 ERA as a junior. She has struck out nearly a batter an inning, but she has relied on a sound defense to get through some tough times, too.
Like last Saturday. After a disappointing first inning against Delta in a regional first-round game, the Eagles picked it up in the field and were actually spectacular in wins against the Panthers and Silver Creek. Hannah Shores, Hughes and Jordan Goodwin each produced a highlight-reel catch in the outfield — plays that in one practice earlier this season, while goofing around, the team executed their dream “ESPN plays.”
“I think I’ve improved throughout the season because our catcher (Kenzie Brock) was our catcher last year, and the more we work together the more we get better and the more on page we are about certain batters,” Grandt said. “But if I make a mistake, I know (the defense is) going to do what they need to do to get outs.”
Of course, the Eagles hope to out-slug their opponents at state. They have 14 home runs as a team, with the Nos. 4 and 5 hitters (Linnie Malkin and Gilmore) combining for 11 of those. Grandt has been solid at the plate with a .441 average and seven total extra base hits.
They also hope to end a disturbing trend of first-round losses at the state tournament. Grandt has felt the disappointment of a first-round exit each of the past three years, and the Eagles haven’t made their stay long the past several years.
“We’re hoping to get over that ugly little hump, because it’s been too long for me,” said Seifried. “We have been (on the cusp), but I think this is the most athletic team through nine (spots in the lineup) and even further. We have a lot of talent on the bench that people haven’t even gotten to see. Just a talented group of girls, and a fun group to be around all the time.”
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