BROOMFIELD — The ungenerous pitching of Broomfield is among the top reasons its trip to next week’s Class 5A state softball tournament is all but secure.
Breana Fiala is a reason why the Eagles will be among the favorites once there.
The sophomore continued her dominance on the mound since returning to Broomfield’s stout rotation earlier this month. Fiala threw six shutout innings in relief, Bryna Kapelke added her third four-hit game of the season, and the CHSAANow.com No. 2-ranked Eagles beat No. 10 Legacy 8-3 Tuesday afternoon.
“I think (we’re) playing with a lot of confidence,” Broomfield coach Kale Gilmore said. “I think they expect to win every game they play. They just battle.”
Ace Kenzi Garner had been brilliant during her senior campaign for the Eagles, going 8-0 with a 2.23 ERA coming into Tuesday. But in her start against Legacy, the senior had to pitch around two first-inning errors and allowed three unearned runs.
In came Fiala, another piece to the program’s rich pitching depth. The sophomore didn’t allow a hit through her first four innings and ended with seven strikeouts.
The Eagles’ ERA is now south of 2.28.
“Certainly, we feel like no matter who we throw out there we have a chance to win the game,” Gilmore said. “We have the confidence changing in the middle of the game if we have to.”
As Fiala dealt, the Eagles’ offense thrashed.
Kapelke’s eighth multi-hit game of the season included a triple and two RBIs. Claire Comstock added three hits and a two-run double. And Shannon Jones had a double and two hits, bringing home three.
With just days remaining in the regular season, both 5A-area darlings remain in the hunt for the Front Range League title. Legacy (9-5, 6-2) is now a game back in the loss column to Broomfield and Horizon. The Eagles (14-1, 8-1), with the Hawks (14-1, 8-1) owning the tiebreaker, will have to root for the Lightning to beat Horizon Thursday for a chance to take over the league lead.
The focus may be beyond that, though.
“We’re trying to just push ourselves and just make a great season,” Kapelke said. “Just try and win that state title.”
The road there, of course, will look different for those in pursuit from previous years. It’s even more contorted than it was a day prior.
The Colorado High School Activities Association announced changes for state softball teams earlier Tuesday. In its release, CHSAA said the roster size could be expanded immediately — from 12 to 15 — due to a variance granted by Gov. Jared Polis. It also provided a change to the state tournament format for all classifications — moving away from the previous plan of playing the entire tournament in one day at one site to multiple sites throughout the week.
Next week, the higher seed will host the first round and quarterfinals. The semifinals and finals will be played at Aurora Sports Park Oct. 10.
“I think teams are going to be rethinking their strategy a little bit,” Gilmore said of the changes. “I think it is going to give teams potentially some different options.”
As for the expanded state schedule, “I think it’s great for home teams that have earned that right to have home-field advantage,” Legacy coach Dawn Gaffin said.
“In terms of COVID, I think it keeps people away, has smaller groups. It also (helps) for the safety of the pitchers. To have four games in one day? I do have two pitchers, but not everybody is blessed with two pitchers on a varsity team. … That’s not healthy. Especially if they’re a good team and they’ve got one pitcher pitching four games, back to back to back — that’s not healthy.”
Legacy opened up a 3-0 lead off Garner in the first thanks in part to some shaky Eagles defense. A leadoff single was followed up by two errors — this, from a defense that owned just 16 gaffes through 14 games. Elena Free then had a groundout RBI and Janessa Esquibel hit a two-run single.
The Eagles closed with the next eight runs. The Lightning had just four baserunners after the first.
“For us, we have to find a balance,” Gaffin said. “We fix one thing, but something happens. We have to balance it out.”
The 16-team, 5A state softball bracket will include league winners and the top teams based off RPI. Broomfield came into the day ranked third in the 5A RPI rankings, while Legacy was 13th.