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Softball: State tournament previews

The BoCo area will be sending 8 to Aurora this weekend

BROOMFIELD-CO-September 28:The Erie Tigers reacts to ...
The Erie Tigers react to a homer by Addie Osborn against Broomfield on Sept. 28. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

Championships run through Aurora, and this weekend will provide another opportunity for softball teams to add their names to the history books.

Since 2016, the BoCoPreps area has seen no shortage of hardware, thanks in large part to perennial powerhouse Holy Family, which has won three of the last four Class 4A state titles. Erie took home the 4A crown in 2019 as Mead, Broomfield and Erie each secured runner-up status once in the past six years.

Legacy’s heyday dates back a bit further, to when the Lightning won five 5A state titles between 2007 and 2013.

On Friday, eight local teams will grace the state stage at Aurora Sports Park to compete for 5A, 4A and 3A glory. Some will bring a strong tradition with them while others gritted out a bid with the bare minimum number of players.

All have proven themselves worthy enough to be considered among the top 16 teams in their respective classifications. Here’s a look at where they’ve been and where they’re going.

Class 5A

Broomfield, No. 10

While youth can be a burden to most squads at the high school level, the Eagles leaned in and embraced their younger players, starting five or six freshmen on any given day. The strategy has paid off for them well as they look to make waves with their No. 10 seed on Friday.

The Eagles, now 21-6, will begin their final campaign of the 2022 season against No. 7 Grandview, which won its Centennial League with an overall record of 18-7. The two teams look similar on paper, with nearly identical numbers in runs scored and runs allowed, but Grandview pitcher Makayla Valle holds a slight edge over Broomfield ace Bree Fiala with 149 strikeouts and 33 earned runs to Fiala’s 119 Ks and 36 earned runs.

Their first game of the tournament may very well come down to a pitcher’s duel, for which each starring lady boasts plenty of weapons. Head coach Kale Gilmore believes his girls have the tools necessary to walk away with a win.

“Our strength is our quality and depth in pitching and solid defense. If we get hot at the plate, we could be scary,” he said. “Our expectations are to compete, be ourselves and make it to Saturday and see what happens.”

Erie, No. 4

The Tigers wasted no time proving they belong in their new classification a year after bumping up from 4A. They’ll enter the 5A competition with hardly a blemish on their 22-3 record and the No. 4 seed.

Their offense has been nothing short of electric, but pitchers Gracie Sackett and Matix Hull have been the real game-changers in the circle with jaw-dropping ERAs of 0.61 and 0.38. Collectively, they’ve given up nine earned runs and 20 overall as Sackett has struck out 103 batters.

The Tigers will face off with No. 13 ThunderRidge, which enters the contest with a 15-11 record. Though the Grizzlies boast a strong offense of their own, their pitching and defense haven’t been nearly as solid, giving up 165 runs in comparison to Erie’s 38 abandoned scores.

“This has been an exciting year for the team. We have grown so much,” head coach Tobin EchoHawk said. “This weekend is going to be an exciting and challenging weekend, but we are exactly where we want to be. I just want them to enjoy the moment, be confident and take in everything about the experience.”

Legacy, No. 15

New coach? No problem.

A year after the Lightning said goodbye to longtime coach Dawn Gaffin, it seems they haven’t missed a beat. They squeaked their way into the final competition the hard way, playing three games instead of two at regionals, and earned the No. 15 seed in doing so.

Legacy brings a 15-11 record to state after leaning on strong performances at the plate and an even stronger defense. They’ll face a tough first opponent in No. 2 Douglas County, which has only lost two games out of 25 and boasts an incredibly strong pitching corps.

“I started the season with one quote in mind, and that was, ‘If we want to go fast, go alone. If we want to go far, go together,'” head coach John Waller said. “I have nine girls and a very small team. We brought up two JV kids, and they’ve just done a very good job of coming together as one and playing well.”

AURORA, CO - Oct. 21, 2021: ...
Isabella Arroyo, of Holy Family, pitches against Palmer Ridge during the first day of 4A state softball in Aurora in 2021. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

Class 4A

Frederick, No. 5

Eight years after finishing state runner-up, the Golden Eagles are back and stronger than ever.

Paced by senior ace Haley Howell (110 strikeouts, 39 earned runs) and chief thief Makenzie Sais (61 steals), the ladies have risen toward the top of the classification with a 22-3 record and setbacks against just two teams. While their bats can heat up at any moment, strong pitching and defense have pushed them across the finish line more times than not.

They’ll go head-to-head with No. 12 Golden to begin their state tournament campaign. The Demons bring in a 17-9 record and a less productive offense, but their ace Mia Rauzi is certainly nothing to balk at as she’s struck out 175 and allowed 51 earned runs.

“It’s been a great season so far, even though we’ve been in the shadows of other local teams,” head coach Roger Dufour said. “Our girls have worked hard to get to this point and our expectations will be to give it our best. Our strength has been strong confidence in late innings.”

Holy Family, No. 2

No team has been able to compare to the Tigers in recent years. They’ve won three of their four program state championships since 2018 and, after a 21-4 record to date this season, show no signs of slowing down any time soon.

Ringing in at No. 2 behind Lutheran, Holy Family stands behind two strong aces in sophomore Izzy Arroyo and freshman Emmaline Humphreys, who have collectively struck out 235 batters while allowing just 28 earned runs. Their offense, of course, is always there to back them up.

The Tigers will first face off against No. 15 Palmer Ridge, which enters the contest with a 15-11 record. While the Bears have no shortage of sparks on offense, their pitching staff hasn’t been near as stellar.

“This team has been so much fun to coach,” head coach Moriah Nguyen said. “We expect to give 110%. We know we have a big target on us, but we’ve put in the extra work to prepare us for this weekend. I’m excited to see what this group of girls will do.”

Mead, No. 6

The Mavericks earned their stock this season through a tough schedule, but that’s just the way they liked it. They bring in a 16-8 record on the heels of a strong offense and an even stronger ace with Joslynn Veltien, who’s struck out 178 while surrendering just 38 runs.

They’ll begin another state campaign two years after finishing runner-up to Holy Family as the No. 6 seed against No. 11 Pueblo West, which comes in with a 17-9 record and a 3-2 loss to the Mavericks at the start of the season.

While the Cyclones have often lagged in the circle, they’ve more than made up for it with 233 total runs. As long as Mead sticks to its game and Veltien sticks to her guns, it should be just fine when it opens play on Friday afternoon.

“We’ve put in a ton of work and it’s paying off,” head coach Amanda Macaluso said. “We play a tough schedule on purpose so weekends like regionals and state feel normal. Our team’s greatest strength is our unity. We work incredibly hard on our team culture and union and our care for each other is what drives us to do better and keep working forward.”

Class 3A

Lyons, No. 16

Few teams could have been able to achieve the feat Lyons has this season.

The Lions earned their bid to the 3A state competition with just nine players, leaving no room for rest in between innings or games. They bring in a 10-11 record and have done so on the back of Ceci Chiaravalle, who’s not only one of the best pitchers in the classification but in the entire state of Colorado, ranking fifth in the nation in strikeouts.

She’s helped pace her team when its offense doesn’t always show up.

“Our team leader and ace pitcher, Ceci Chiaravalle, has been a crucial part of our success this season,” head coach Julie Vasquez said. “Ceci’s dedication to the Lyons softball program is unmatched, taking a humble approach to the work she has put in, and her successes this season. Ceci is currently ranked No. 2 in the state with 252 current strikeouts this season, averaging 2.13 strikeouts an inning. The team has had many successes throughout the season and is grateful for the opportunity to compete among Colorado’s top teams.”

The Lions will face a tough first opponent in top-seeded Strasburg, which comes in with a 22-3 record, a white-hot offense and two strong pitchers.

Peak to Peak, No. 15

The Pumas enter the tournament sitting right at .500 with an 11-11 record, which was good enough to earn them the No. 15 seed. Their bats have provided their greatest strength, knocking in 204 runs so far.

They’ll have a tough go, however, with a first-round opponent in No. 2 Brush. While the Beetdigger offense holds a slight edge with 220 runs, their true strength lies in three pitchers that bring nearly equal talent to the circle.

“We have a very young team and for a team as young as ours to be competing in the state tournament, that’s always a great thing,” head coach Brandin Becher said. “We’ve played some tough teams this year so I feel that we will be prepared as best as we can for Friday’s competition.”