Wildcats hurt by lack of clutch hits in semifinal loss
AURORA — The opportunities were there Saturday for the Fruita Monument High School softball team, but the big hit was not.
The Wildcats couldn’t come up with the key hit to score enough runs, falling to Rock Canyon 3-2 in the Class 5A state semifinals at Aurora Sports Park.
“I think (Friday) took more out of us than we realized,” Fruita coach Jamie Dunn said. “These girls have never been this far. There is added pressure. You can’t help but think if we win, we’re in the championship.”
Instead, Rock Canyon advanced to the title game, where it lost to Legacy 5-2. The Lightning defeated Ralston Valley 8-5 in the other semifinal.
Fruita Monument (21-3) had a few chances to defeat the Jaguars and play for its first state softball title since 1989, but the Wildcats left seven runners on base.
“I think we wanted it too much,” Fruita senior Ashleigh Wissel said. “We started hitting when we relaxed.”
Two runners were thrown out at third base, including in the seventh inning on a double play to end the game.
Rock Canyon pitcher Melanie White worked out of several jams. The senior limited Fruita to one earned run on six hits and struck out eight.
“I don’t know if she threw a different speed, but we didn’t handle her,” Dunn said. “She had a good changeup. She’s good. I hope they win, because that means we lost to the state champions.”
Fruita pitcher Erika Chirdon allowed three runs on seven hits, three walks and struck out two in five innings. Mallory Paulson struck out one batter in one inning of relief.
Chirdon pitched out of a jam in the first inning. The Jaguars had the bases loaded with one out, but Chirdon struck out Taylor Pettaway and got Lauren Yacks to pop up to end the inning.
Rock Canyon broke the scoreless tie in the third inning when Brooke Wakefield scored on Kaitlyn Miller’s single up the middle.
Wissel got the run back with a leadoff home run in the fourth.
She was 1 for 4 in the game and 7 for 11 with six RBI in the Wildcats’ three state tournament games.
The Jaguars scored two in the fifth to take a 3-1 lead.
Wakefield led off with a single and Zayne Blumberg beat out a bunt. Alli McCloskey drove them home on a base hit.
Fruita had chances to score in the fifth, sixth and seventh, but could only get one across.
With two on in the fifth, Wissel hit into a fielder’s choice and Paulson popped up to end the inning.
Mariaha O’Dell led off the sixth with a double but was left at third base after a groundout and two strikeouts.
One inning later, Hannah Englbrecht led off with a triple and scored when Kendra Williams reached on an error. One out later, Wissel came up with one out, but hit a line drive to the shortstop, who turned a double play to end the game.
“If that ball was two inches to the left, it’s a tie game,” Dunn said. “We gave it our best shot. We had a chance to win it. I’ll take it.”