Changing things up helps Fruita win regional softball title
Socks down, pockets out.
It did the trick Saturday for the Fruita Monument High School softball team.
“Get them thinking about something other than the ball coming in,” Fruita coach Jamie Dunn said after the Wildcats (18-3) rallied for an 8-5 win over rival Grand Junction in the Class 5A Region 2 softball tournament at Kronkright Complex.
The win sends Fruita back to the state tournament, where the ‘Cats were one hit way from reaching the finals last season.
After the loss, the Tigers (17-5) came out flat and lost 4-0 to Ralston Valley in the second qualifying game.
The Wildcats were struggling against Junction, trailing 5-1 in the fifth inning, hitting only two balls out of the infield in the first four innings against Elisha Jahnke.
One by one, the Wildcats strode to the plate, the back pockets of their uniform pants turned out. In the dugout, the players’ royal blue socks were rolled down.
“If it means we drop our socks and things start happening, great, so be it,” Dunn said. “We’re pretty superstitious. Well, I’m pretty superstitious and they kind of follow me; it’s rubbing off on them.”
Morgan Young singled and took second on Sam Modrick’s sacrifice bunt. Shanyn Thomas walked and Kendra Williams grounded to third, but was safe when Grand Junction’s Cierra Cosslett wheeled and threw to shortstop Arrianna Diaz covering third. Laren Cyphers, running for Young, beat the throw to load the bases.
Rayel Padgett grounded up the first-base line, scoring Cyphers, and she was safe when the field umpire ruled that Shafer Rubalcaba didn’t make the tag.
“She had the ball in her hand and tagged me with her glove,” Padgett said. “We had to keep going and it all worked out.”
Mariah O’Dell walked in a run, setting up Hannah Mahnke’s two-run double to left, scoring two runs and tying the game 5-5.
Mallory Paulson grounded back to Jahnke, who quickly checked O’Dell, who was half-way down the line, then threw to first.
O’Dell immediately broke for the plate, scoring the go-ahead run. Fruita added a pair of runs in the sixth when Modrick singled and scored on Williams’ triple to right. Williams came home on a double by Padgett.
“Instead of letting our swings do the work, we were just trying to get on,” Padgett said of the early innings. “It didn’t work out so well. We were trying to force to get on instead of letting it happen.”
Until the fifth, the Tigers had things going their way.
Buoyed by their 1-0, eight-inning win over Ralston Valley in the first game, the Tigers jumped on Fruita starter Jenni Sneddon for two runs in the first.
Diaz hit a ground-rule double to left-center to score Kylie Burns and Cosslett.
Dunn wasted no time, bringing Paulson in from third, who struck out the next two batters, but gave up one run in the third and two in the fourth, including a solo home run by Marisa Millard.
Once the Wildcats took the lead, the Tigers managed only one more base runner.
Fruita got two-run home runs from Young and Paulson in its 5-2 win over Rangeview in the first round. After beating the Tigers, several of the Wildcats hung around to try to urge them on to the state tourney.
The Tigers, though, couldn’t hold off Ralston Valley, which scored one run in the third, two in the fifth and one in the sixth.
A mental lapse cost the Tigers in the fifth inning. After Becca Fallon led off with a ground-rule double to center, Brooke McHale walked.
With one out, Denise Anderson reached on an error, scoring Fallon and sending McHale to third. Anderson got caught in a rundown between first and second, and the Tigers never looked to see McHale score from third.
Cosslett, who was nearly unhittable in the first game against Ralston Valley, throwing a wicked riseball, scattered seven hits in the final game and struck out four.
“She was awesome,” Grand Junction coach Adam Diaz said. “We’ve got to make the plays and we didn’t. We were flat, there was no emotion, even with the sticks. We were just flat.
“We had our opportunities. I’m very proud of them; you can’t ask for more than they gave us. They wouldn’t let the score dictate how we played, they just kept playing. The last game we just had no gas.”