Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer
LYONS — Not long ago, Lyons had to scan the school hallways in search of anybody willing to join its softball team.
Search no more.
Under a hot sun Thursday, the Class 3A fifth-seeded Lions’ first state quarterfinals trip in 18 years ended in a 9-1 loss to No. 13 Brush.
Players and coaches sat in a circle in left field following the loss.
Perspective was key.
“Lyons has struggled,” said first-year coach Julie Vasquez, who was the shortstop the last time Lions had gone this far in 2002. “Three years ago, we were literally plucking kids out of the hallway to play softball who’d never played softball before, just so we had a program. Three years ago. Four years ago, they didn’t win a game in league.”
The Lions had come into the day red-hot, averaging 15 1/2 runs per game during a six-game winning streak. But the bats missed early opportunities with runners in scoring position. The Beetdiggers then rallied for eight unanswered runs in the later goings.
Four straight two-out hits ended the day for Lyons starter Shantel Koester in the fifth, leading to three runs. A triple and miscues propelled the Cinderella seed to a four-run sixth.
Koester was strong through 4 2/3 innings but earned the loss, allowing seven hits and four runs. The standout righty had allowed four earned runs in a loss to Strasburg at the start of the year before compiling a spotless 7-0 record coming into Thursday.
In an opening-round 6-0 win over Weld Central, she’d allowed just two hits in a complete-game performance.
“She’s a key player for us,” Vasquez said. “She pitched her heart out.”
Following a home run from Brush’s Grace Georgiou, Lyons tied things in the bottom of the first on a Raeana Ortiz sac fly.
Beetdiggers starter Braelynn Rule calmed after that, allowing just two hits following the first and one unearned run over seven innings.
“(Brush) hit us, they hit the ball,” Vasquez said. “They showed up and scored the runs. Our bats didn’t come out today like they’ve done for us all season.”
Lyons finished 14-4, its second straight winning season following eight consecutive years of losing records.
Looking back, what a strange fall season it had been, washed in a pandemic and often uncertainty. And how remarkable the Lions had persevered through it.
Senior catcher Hannah Schweiger tried to frame it — in words.
“This has been our best season,” Schweiger said. “I came in as a freshman and we won like (six) games and they weren’t conference games. We weren’t good. To have this season and to say we went to state and we went far, it’s amazing for us to be able to do that.”