FREDERICK — A season ago, this was this most gloomy day of the Frederick softball season.
What a difference a year makes.
After failing to escape from regionals and missing state last fall, the Warriors weren’t about to let it happen again. They earned the top overall seed for Class 4A regionals after an undefeated regular season, but last season’s disappointment was still fresh in their minds.
Frederick received a reputable challenge from No. 16 Falcon, but the host Warriors overcame three one-run deficits to punch their ticket to state with a 7-4 win. They blanked No. 32 Montezuma-Cortez in the opening round and will head to Aurora Sports Park with their undefeated mark intact at 21-0.
“We just had to go out there knowing we could win, but that we couldn’t take anyone lightly,” said second baseman Antonia Villani, who went 3 for 3 with a double and an RBI in the clincher. “We fell behind for a second there, but we had faith in each other and we all ended up coming though. That’s what it really takes in the postseason.”
If needed, Frederick had a second chance in its back pocket. If the Warriors had lost to Falcon, they would have had an opportunity to win a play-in game for Region 1’s second qualifying spot. But that’s not the way the Warriors wanted to do it.
“Absolutely not, especially as a number one seed,” Frederick coach Roger Dufour said. “Our job is two win two games, and I’m glad we did that today. That’s what we preached to the girls, is we didn’t want to flirt around with that third game because anything can happen.”
Last season at regionals, after opening with a win against Pueblo County, Frederick lost to Mountain View and Roosevelt and finished the season 14-8. Seniors Villani, Alex Dufour and Cheyenne Hamilton vowed to avoid a repeat of that occurrence.
“I think it was really special that we were on our home field,” said Hamilton, the Warriors’ center fielder. “Taking this momentum into state is going to be really big for us.”
After pitcher Alicia Hernandez was nearly perfect against Montezuma-Cortez (one hit allowed and 13 strikeouts in the five-inning win), she faced a Falcon squad firmly looking for an upset.
The Falcons led 1-0, 2-1 and 4-3 before Frederick finally seized command for good with a four-run fifth.
After Alex Dufour laid down a bunt single, Paris Woods tripled to right-center to tie it 4-4. Mae Mitchell followed with a fly ball to shallow center that the fleet Woods turned into a go-ahead sacrifice fly.
Villani then made it 6-4 with a rocket double off the third baseman’s glove, and the Warriors added another run on a Falcon miscue.
Hernandez (20-0) didn’t exude the dominance of the first game, as she gave up a go-ahead homer to Sierra Leon in the top of the fourth and a go-ahead, two-run double to pitcher Lexi Manyik in the fifth. But the sophomore blanked the Falcons in the final two innings and finished with seven strikeouts.
“We were reflecting on our schedule, and out last game was September 30th, so it’s been awhile,” Roger Dufour said. “I was glad we got a scrimmage in last week, but this was the type of game that will help us get back on track.”
The Warriors have mulled all season whether being undefeated was a secondary type of goal to go along with the pursuit of a championship. Now they’ll be one and the same if they happen, because a loss means elimination in next weekend’s 16-team bracket.
“We try not to pay attention to it,” Hamilton said. “But we know that because we are undefeated and we are No. 1, there’s a big target on our back and we can’t let up.”
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Frederick 7, Falcon 4
At Frederick HS
Falcon 100 120 0 — 4 9 3
Frederick 100 240 X — 7 11 0
W — A. Hernandez (20-0). L — Manyik.
Falcon hitting (ab-r-h-rbi) — Lashley 4-1-1-0, Slider 4-1-1-0, Whorton 3-1-1-0, Manyik 4-0-1-2, Leon 3-1-2-2, Wells 3-0-0-0, Schlitz 3-0-2-0, Rogers 3-0-1-0, Evans 3-0-0-0, Thomas 0-0-0-0, Dolsman 0-0-0-0. Totals 30-4-9-4. 2B — Slider, Manyik. HR — Leon (solo in 4th).
Frederick hitting (ab-r-h-rbi) — Dufour 4-2-2-0, Woods 4-1-1-1, Mitchell 2-0-1-2, Hall 3-0-1-0, Massey 0-1-0-0, Hamilton 3-0-0-0, Ellis 3-0-2-0, McCollough 0-2-0-0, Villani 3-1-3-1, A. Hernandez 3-0-0-0, Heath 0-0-0-0, L. Hernandez 3-0-1-0, Wyatt 0-0-0-0. Totals 28-7-11-4. 2B — Villani. 3B — Woods. SB — Dufour.
Falcon pitching (ip-h-r-er-bb-so) — Manyik 6-11-7-4-0-1.
Frederick pitching (ip-h-r-er-bb-so) — Hernandez 7-9-4-4-1-7.
Frederick 10, Montezuma-Cortez 0
At Frederick HS
Montezuma-Cortez 000 00 — 0 1 3
Frederick 052 03 — 10 9 0
W — A. Hernandez (19-0). L — Topaha.
Frederick hitting (ab-r-h-rbi) — Dufour 2-2-1-1, Woods 3-0-2-2, Mitchell 2-0-0-0, Hall 3-0-0-0, Hamilton 3-1-1-0, Ellis 3-0-1-0, McCollough 0-1-0-0, Villani 3-2-1-1, A. Hernandez 2-0-1-1, Heath 0-2-0-0, V. Hernandez 2-1-2-3, Wyatt 0-1-0-0. Totals 23-10-9-8. 2B — Woods 2, Hamilton, Ellis, V. Hernandez. SB — Dufour, Wyatt.
Frederick pitching (ip-h-r-er-bb-so) — A. Hernandez 5-1-0-0-0-13.