Bulldogs fall in 4A softball regional
COLORADO SPRINGS — Palisade wanted a do-over in the worst way. The Bulldogs earned that chance and made the day memorable if not ultimately fulfilling.
Palisade, seeded 29th, saw its season end after dropping two of three at a 4A softball regional hosted by Discovery Canyon, but the fashion in which the events unfolded cushioned the blow.
“Losing always leaves a sour taste in your mouth, but the way they came back … you can’t ask for a team to fight harder than that,” Bulldogs coach Nicole Zuniga said. “They need to be proud and hold their heads up. What a way to end a season. They fought, and I’m incredibly proud of them.”
The details of the end, a nail-biting 9-8 defeat to Discovery Canyon, can’t be fully appreciated without understanding how the day began.
They called it nerves. Whatever it was, it wasn’t pretty.
Palisade committed 10 errors in its opener, handing fourth-seeded Discovery Canyon more than enough unearned runs to end the game 16-1 after four innings.
“They didn’t know what to expect,” Zuniga said. “It was the first regional game for a lot of them. We talked before the next one that we wanted a little redemption, and they fought hard to get it.”
The Bulldogs responded by opening a 7-2 lead on No. 20 Northridge and holding on for a 7-5 victory.
That set up a rematch with Discovery Canyon in an elimination game.
Though Palisade didn’t gift wrap nearly as many runs this time, the scoreboard told a similar story as the Thunder carried an 8-2 lead into the sixth inning.
But Palisade knows a thing or two about battling back. This is a team that posted a losing record last season and started this year 1-4 yet managed to orchestrate a turnaround that included a perfect run through the Western Slope League.
They weren’t going to go away quietly.
A sixth-inning rally had already scored a pair of runs when Angela Gordon, batting with the bases loaded, sliced a line drive into right field. In windy conditions the ball took an awkward bounce and rolled to the wall.
Gordon raced around for a game-tying inside-the-park grand slam that caused an eruption of emotion from the Bulldogs’ dugout and the dozen or so fans who made the long drive to sit through seven hours of softball in frigid conditions.
“That was just awesome,” Gordon said. “It was like, ‘Yes, we get a second chance. We’re not going to go home with a horrible score.’ It was awesome.”
It was the last hurrah, however.
Discovery Canyon held Palisade scoreless in the top of the seventh and then won the game on a walk-off sacrifice fly.
Palisade finished its season 12-9 and, as Gordon put it, with no regrets.
Her coach felt the same, though she wouldn’t mind a few more outs.
“What I wouldn’t give for one more inning,” Zuniga said. “But you just can’t ask a No. 29 to come out and scare a No. 4 team any better than that.”
Grand Junction still alive
Grand Junction won its first-round game 10-5 against Standley Lake in the Class 5A Region 5 tourney Saturday and was trailing Chatfield 3-0 in the sixth inning of its second game when the game was postponed because of rain.
The Tigers’ game with Chatfield will resume at 12:15 today in Arvada. Grand Junction has a runner on first base with one out in the top of the sixth, and its No. 2 hitter is up with no count on the batter. If the Tigers (17-3) rally to win, they are regional champions and state qualifiers. If they lose, they will play the winner of the game between Denver East and Standley Lake for second place and the other state berth the regional receives.
Grand Junction laced 11 hits, all singles, in the game against Standley Lake, but the Tigers strung them together in the second, third and fourth innings, the frames in which they tallied all of their runs.
Fruita gets rematch for state
Fruita Monument bounced back from a 9-5 loss to Legend in the first round of the Class 5A Region 6 tourney Saturday by beating Pine Creek 14-3 in an elimination game. Rain then forced the postponement of the No. 11-seeded Wildcats’ game for second place, a rematch with 22nd-seeded Legend (8-11), which lost to regional champ Rock Canyon.
The two will play at 10 a.m. today at Rock Canyon High School in Castle Rock. The winner gets the region’s second state berth.
Fruita Monument (15-6) used seven hits, including a two-run home run by Darrian Medina, and 14 walks to rout Pine Creek.
Montrose makes 4A state
No. 16-seed Montrose defeated 17th-seeded Falcon in the first round of the Class 4A Region 1 tournament Saturday, then lost to the state’s top seed, undefeated Pueblo East, in the regional championship game. The Indians bounced back to beat Falcon again for second place and a state berth.