Extra-inning win gives ‘Cats league title, playoff berth

Fruita Monument’s Hannah Mahnke connects on a two-run single Wednesday in the third inning of the Wildcats’ 9-8 victory over Central.

Fruita Monument needed extra innings, but it came through to win the Southwestern League softball title and clinch a Class 5A regional berth.

The fifth-ranked Wildcats (16-3, 9-1 SWL) rallied from a 6-0 deficit Wednesday afternoon, then had to rally again in extra innings to defeat Central 9-8 at Kronkright Complex.

“It’s good for our seniors to win this game,” junior Mariah O’Dell said. “We don’t have to play until next Saturday. It was a good effort for the seniors and all the girls.”

Fruita coach Jamie Dunn was confident the team would get a regional berth, but believes the victory will get them a high seed to host a regional.

“I didn’t feel like we had to win to get in, but I felt like we had to win to secure a hosting spot and get the best seed possible,” Dunn said.

Of the 62 Class 5A teams, 30 receive an automatic regional berth depending on their league finish.

With three 5A teams in the Southwestern League, only the league champion gets an automatic berth. A committee determines the final two at-large berths from the remaining 32 teams.

Grand Junction (12-3, 4-2 SWL) received a forfeit victory over Montrose, but will need victories over Class 4A Durango and Montezuma-Cortez today and Friday for a chance for one of the at-large regional spots.

Montrose forfeited to Grand Junction because the Indians already had rescheduled games against Delta today, Eagle Valley on Thursday and Durango on Saturday. Those three games are much more important for Montrose and its Class 4A regional playoff hopes than one league game against Grand Junction, the eighth-ranked Class 5A team.

Wednesday, O’Dell came through with a high-bouncing single over first base to score Kendra Williams in the bottom of the eighth for Fruita’s game-winner.

“I just wanted to get a base hit,” O’Dell said of her clutch hit. “It’s really nerve-racking, you have a lot going through your mind. I settled down and looked for the perfect pitch.”

Although O’Dell had the big hit, it was the Wildcats’ defense that keyed the victory.

“One thing we cheered most about was we didn’t have any errors,” Dunn said. “I told them the difference came when their right fielder watched the ball go underneath her glove.

“As nice as those 10-run wins are, I’d much rather play a game like today, a well-played game, because that will prepare us better for next weekend.”

The Wildcats took advantage of the Central error in the fifth inning and scored the go-ahead run for a 7-6 lead on Hannah Englbrecht’s single.

Fruita added a run in the sixth when Shanyn Thomas scored on a wild pitch.

Central (7-7, 2-4 SWL) came back with two runs in the top of the seventh. Brittany Hoppe had a RBI single and Emily Zich followed with a RBI single to score the tying run.

Fruita had a chance to score in the bottom of the seventh, but Hoppe threw out a runner at home plate, then catcher Makenzie Lange threw out a runner at second base to get out of the jam.

Williams led off the eighth with a single and advanced to second on a groundout before O’Dell delivered the game-winning hit.

“Our girls really pulled together,” Dunn said. “I wasn’t sure how this game would go. We started out so slow. We took it one (at-bat) at a time. Mallory’s been so consistent hitting the ball and our bottom half has been on base, too. It took a team effort.”

“We needed to take the momentum back,” Dunn said. “The girls seemed relaxed. We’re capable of scoring a lot of runs in an inning, but I wasn’t sure how we’d respond. I told the girls to look for better pitches.”

Central built a 6-0 lead on home runs from Zich, Kiana Garcia, Taylor Hice and a RBI double from Lange.

Fruita rallied to score six runs in the bottom of the third on RBI hits from Hannah Mahnke, Mallory Paulson, Hannah Englbrecht and Sam Modrick to tie the game.


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