Softball: Streaking Lyons announced its arrival in season’s first half

Program that has historically struggled on pace for best season in over a decade

  • Jeremy Papasso/ Staff Photographer

    Lyons High School's Brooklyn Enny gets some batting practice during softball practice on Wednesday in Lyons.

  • Jeremy Papasso/ Staff Photographer

    Lyons High School's Hannah Schweiger makes a throw to first base during softball practice on Wednesday in Lyons.

  • Jeremy Papasso/ Staff Photographer

    Lyons High School Head Coach Sean Lynch talks with his team during softball practice on Wednesday in Lyons.

  • Jeremy Papasso/ Staff Photographer

    Lyons High School's Raeana Ortiz makes a stop at third base during softball practice on Wednesday in Lyons.

  • Jeremy Papasso/ Staff Photographer

    Lyons High School's Brooklyn Enny makes a stop at short-stop during softball practice on Wednesday in Lyons.

  • Jeremy Papasso/Staff Photographer

    Lyons High School's Hannah Schweiger makes a stop during softball practice on Wednesday in Lyons.

  • Jeremy Papasso/ Staff Photographer

    Lyons High School's Jaz Enny makes a stop during softball practice on Wednesday in Lyons.

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LYONS – When senior Hannah Paton looks back on how hopeless things were during her freshman season with the Lyons softball team, it amazes her to consider how far the program has come.

The Lions went 2-17 in 2016, Paton’s freshman year. But they put together a six-win campaign in 2017 and won seven games in 2018.

Lyons High School's Hannah Schweiger makes ...
Jeremy Papasso/Staff Photographer
Lyons High School’s Hannah Schweiger makes a stop during softball practice on Wednesday in Lyons.

As of Thursday afternoon, the Lions (7-4) were listed at No. 7 in Class 3A by the CHSAAnow.com poll and had already won seven games. That matches their win total from last fall with at least three weeks left to play.

If Paton could time-travel and promise her younger self that the Lions would be within reach of a winning season her senior year, she says 9th-grade Paton wouldn’t have believed it.

“My freshman year and sophomore year were really tough,” Paton said. “But it’s been really great to see the program coming together. As a senior, it’s really exciting to me because I was not expecting to be on a winning team. It’s really indescribable to be on a team like this. The energy is just different.

“Everybody is just all in.”

It’s hard to say that Lyons softball is back, or even if it was ever really “there.”

Not only has Lyons never won a state championship, the Lions have not won more than seven games since 2014 and haven’t won more than eight games since 2011. The 2010 season was the lone campaign of the Lions’ past 10 in which they finished above the .500 mark, and the last time they went to state. But there are signs that this season’s emergence is the real deal and not just some fluky hot start.

On Sept. 3, the Lions beat No. 8-ranked Strasburg (7-5) for the first time since 2011. On Tuesday, they beat No. 5-ranked Brush (9-4) for the first time since 2014. Even their losses – 5A No. 7 Prairie View, 3A No. 1 University (by one run), 3A No. 4 Riverdale Ridge, and 3A No. 2 Eaton – have strengthened the Lions’ belief that they belong in the thick of the postseason hunt.

Making it to state, after all, is the ultimate goal.

“We’ve slowly been getting better but this year we’ve just taken off,” junior catcher Hannah Schweiger said. “The energy in the dugout is just amazing and everything we do is just 100 percent. The first time we talked this season, we said we wanted to go to regionals and state. We like our chances better the more we play.”

According to MaxPreps, Schweiger leads the nation in caught stealing percentage, having thrown out 13 of 16 would-be thieves for an .812 mark. Paton is currently leading all of Colorado, and is fourth in the nation, with 31 stolen bases in 31 attempts spread across just 11 games. Three-hole hitter and pitcher Shantel Koester boasts a .516 batting average and a 2.96 ERA.

“I used to be the only pitcher that ever pitched and now we have two really good ones,” Koester, a junior, said. “Our batting has gotten ten times better, too. Our top two usually get on, our middle hitters have good power and our bottom turns us over. It’s really fun when all your girls can really hit.”

The past decade has been an uphill battle for a Lyons softball program that was victimized by the 2013 flood that destroyed all the fields in town, wiping out local recreational youth leagues that feed talent to the high school level. The program has also struggled with participation numbers at a school with an enrollment just under 230 and with other attractive fall sports options like state champion-caliber cross country and volleyball teams.

Youth leagues in Lyons have since been revived and plenty of local players also play in leagues in Longmont or Boulder. Softball participation is also up at the high school. A number of positives are lining up for a Lyons team that has just two seniors and with one more victory will have increased its win total in each of the last three seasons under head coach Sean Lynch.

“My first year when I first started, we had six kids and we were talking about closing the program down,” Lynch said. “But we got some freshmen who had never played before to jump on board and we made it work. Fast forward to today and I feel like I have a box of riches because we have 11 players.

“There aren’t a lot of kids in the school and we have some great programs like cross country and volleyball, so a lot of kids want to go do those, and for good reason. Softball sometimes gets what’s left. But we feel like we’re in a good place and we have a lot of good kids so hopefully we can keep building.”

The Lions play in a District 3 league that has produced seven of the past nine 3A state champions and has placed one team, if not two, in all nine of those title games. So it won’t get any easier for the Lions down the home stretch of the regular season.

But already in the first half, the Lions proved they are up to the task. Even if they were never “there” before, the Lions certainly appear to have arrived.