AURORA — The Class 5A state softball tournament brought wild excitement and developed the major headlines among all three tournaments played Friday at the Aurora Sports Complex.
No story was bigger than the No. 16 seed Ralston Valley Mustangs and their two upsets to reach the semifinal round, including a 5-1 win over the 9 seed Loveland Indians in the quarterfinals.
“Sometimes there’s a team of destiny,” Loveland coach Mike Felton said. “(Ralston Valley) came in and knocked the No. 1 team out and then knocked us out. I don’t know what they’ll do (Saturday), but sometimes teams are just meant to beat whoever they play, and they beat two really good teams today.”
Laney Clark set the tone in the quarterfinal game by hitting a leadoff home run off Loveland’s Laurin Krings to start. The Mustangs would lead 2-0 after the first inning and added a two-run home run to go up 4-0 midway through the game.
Loveland had its chances to get back in the game seeing runners on third and second with a chance to bring them home on three occasions. All three times, the Indians were unable to score and find the spark they needed to mount a comeback.
“We did hit the ball hard, but (Ralston Valley) made some good plays on them,” Felton said, his team finishing 24-5 on the season. “Sometimes, like I said, you just run into a team of destiny. It was Ralston Valley’s day today. No one was going to stop them.”
Missed chances at the plate also proved costly for No. 4 seed Broomfield and No. 7 seeded Legacy in the tournament quarterfinals, as well.
Broomfield’s Bryna Kapelke hit a huge three-run home run to right field in the third inning that tied the game with No. 5 seed Fossil Ridge at 4-4, erasing an early deficit through the first two frames. The game would remain tied until the seventh when Fossil Ridge scored twice off Hadlee Reichert to regain the lead.
However, the Eagles (22-5) responded in the bottom of the seventh and got the first two runners on, pushing them into scoring position with a sac bunt. After an intentional walk loaded the bases, Kapelke hit a popup and Chloe Eiguren flied out to right to secure the 6-4 win for the Sabercats — another Front Range League team.
“We were one hit away from winning the game,” Broomfield coach Kale Gilmore said, his team having won 13-5 over Legend in the opening round. “That’s the margin of error with the competition at this level. It hurts, but I’m proud of how the girls fought and made it a game.”
Legacy (18-9) was even with No. 2 Columbine through three innings but allowed five runs in the fourth and one in the fifth to fall behind 7-1. The Lightning chipped away, with Micah Bernard’s two-run double, Alex Genty’s sacrifice fly and Hannah Farley’s seventh-inning RBI single making it a 7-5 game still with chances to wipe away the full margin. It just didn’t come to fruition in the end.
“They have been predators this year, and that’s what we talked about,” Legacy coach Dawn Gaffin said. “They are learning and going back-and-forth. I couldn’t be prouder.”
The three quarterfinal losses overshadowed first round wins earlier in the day. Loveland had a two-run home run from Allison Westbrook to beat Brighton 5-1, Broomfield’s 13 runs was the most of any 5A team in the first set of games, and Legacy rallied to force extra innings against Chatfield before walking off the Chargers 3-2.
Lyons competes in Class 3A
The Lyons Lions on Friday competed in the Class 3A state tournament for the first time since 2010. Facing the Limon Badgers in the first round, a rally late by the Lions forced extra innings but Limon came through with a walk-off single by Trista Marx to win 8-7.
“It was really fun for all of us,” Lyons junior Hannah Schwieger said. “It was nice to have that. Lyons softball has not been a big thing, but it was really amazing to be a part of this. It was great to be here with everyone.”
Schwieger drove in a run with a single in the first inning that put Lyons up 2-0, only to see a two-run double in the bottom frame by Limon tie the game. Limon would build up a lead in the middle portion of the game and Lyons would rally to tie the game at seven.
The loss was short of where Lyons wanted to go, but the team feels primed to make another run back to state next year.
“We know what we have to work on,” Schwieger said. “We can work really well and I think if we stay on the grind and keep pushing ourselves, we can probably come back next year.”
Ralston Valley will look to continue its Cinderella run as it faces Fossil Ridge in the semifinals. In the other semifinal game in Class 5A, Columbine will face No. 3 Rocky Mountain.
The Patriot League dominated Class 3A and will have all four teams in the semifinal round. Top seed University will face the defending state champion and No. 4 seed Strasburg, and the other semifinal game pits No. 3 Brush against No. 7 Sterling in a rivalry game.