Central wins in 12, moves to semis: Fruita Monument, Palisade fall in state tourney
AURORA — Central High School catcher Brittany Hoppe wasn’t having quite the day she imagined Friday, but she knew it wasn’t over yet.
In the top of the 12th inning in the quarterfinals of the Class 5A state softball tournament at the Aurora Sports Park, Central found itself tied 5-5 with Brighton.
Despite Hoppe being 0 for 5 against Brighton’s Paxton Duran at that point, the Central sophomore took a positive approach to her at-bat.
“She’d been frustrated, but kept saying ‘I’m due,’ ” Central pitcher Mikayla Duffy said. “I had all the confidence in the world in her.”
Hoppe came through.
With Duffy on first, Hoppe hit a deep fly ball to left-center field that cleared the fence to give Central a 7-5 lead.
The Warriors held onto the two-run advantage to move into today’s Final Four.
“It’s luck and being at the right place,” Hoppe said. “She pitched it high, and normally I don’t swing at high balls, but I got ahold of that one.”
The home run capped one of the most exciting games of the tournament. Duffy and Duran battled pitch for pitch the entire game.
The Warriors struck first, scoring two runs in the second inning. By the bottom of the third, the Bulldogs had tied the game 2-2.
In the top of the fourth, Tayler Else led off with a solo home run. An error by the center fielder allowed Danielle Romine to reach third on a pop-fly and Duffy hit an RBI single to give Central a 4-2 lead.
Brighton didn’t wait long to respond. In the fifth inning, a Joslynn Lopez RBI single knotted the game at 4-4.
In the sixth, the Bulldogs took their first lead of the game on Justine Espinosa’s RBI double.
“We were frustrated because we wanted to win so badly,” Duffy said. “But it’s all about heart and who wants it more.”
In the seventh, Central got a two-out RBI double from Danielle Romine that scored Jessica Romine to tie the game at 5-5 and send it into extra innings.
“We were one out away from losing that game, but they don’t quit,” Central coach Scott Else said. ” The girls have confidence that they are going to win every game. Their summer teams are winners, they had a good record this year, had a good record last year so they are used to winning, and they have a refuse-to-lose attitude.”
In extra innings, both teams had runners in scoring position but couldn’t get them around before Hoppe’s clutch home run.
With the win, Central faces the team that knocked them out of the playoffs last season, Ralston Valley, at 10 this morning.
“Ralston Valley is a very good team,” Else said. “We have been looking to play them again. We respect them, and it couldn’t have worked out any better.”
Central got to the game by defeating Lakewood 12-4. Brighton reached the game by defeating Fruita Monument 1-0.
The Wildcats gave up one run in the fifth inning and had Kendra Williams in scoring position in the sixth inning but couldn’t get her across.
“We didn’t finish on offense or defense,” Fruita Monument coach Jamie Dunn said. “We had a couple of chances to score, but we couldn’t execute when we needed to.”
Erika Chirdon pitched a good game for the Wildcats, allowing only three hits, but Fruita couldn’t give her run support.
Fruita finished the season 19-4 and has a good chunk of its roster returning.
“I’m proud of them for not giving up,” Dunn said. “I hope they don’t let this last game affect how they feel about the season.”
In Class 4A, Palisade had its chances early, but left runners stranded in its 10-0 loss to top-seeded Wheat Ridge.
The Bulldogs loaded the bases in the first inning against the Farmers’ Stephanie Routzon, but couldn’t get any runs across.
The Farmers scored four runs in the bottom of the inning and added six more in the fourth.
“The girls should be proud of themselves,” Palisade coach John Vanlandingham said. “They are a team that plays as one and it shows.”
In Class 3A, Basalt lost to Platte Canyon 11-0.