Elisha Jahnke pitches GJ into Class 5A state tourney
FORT COLLINS — As the day wore on Saturday, Elisha Jahnke just got better and better in the pitching circle for the Grand Junction High School softball team.
Jahnke and the rest of the Tigers started the day a little sluggish after having to drive about 30 minutes from their hotel in Longmont to the Triple Crown sports complex in Fort Collins.
No. 13-seeded Grand Junction woke up in time to beat Columbine in the Class 5A Region 4 opener. The Tigers then fell to No. 4-seed Fossil Ridge, setting up a rematch with No. 20 Columbine with a trip to state on the line. The top two teams from each of 5A’s eight regions make the state field.
That’s when Jahnke took over. The senior threw a complete game, limiting the Rebels to five hits and striking out five to power Grand Junction to a 2-0 win and a trip to next week’s state tournament.
“She got stronger as the day went along,” Tigers coach Adam Diaz said. “As the games progressed, she was better. She’s one of those athletes that when the pressure is on, she likes to shine.”
In the final game, the Tigers (17-5) scored one run in each of the first two innings, with Jahnke knocking in one run in the first inning and Bree Baldwin hitting a run-scoring single in the second.
Although the Grand Junction offense sputtered after those two innings, Columbine (12-10) didn’t create any offense until the sixth inning.
In the sixth, Columbine had runners on second and third with one out. Jenelle Mohr hit a fly ball to short left field, the runner tagged and was safe at home. The Tigers appealed the play at third base, and the runner was ruled out for leaving the base before the catch was made.
That’s all Jahnke needed. She pitched a flawless final inning to seal the trip to state.
“We’re pretty excited. I think we were pretty confident that if we played like we did today that we would be able to make it,” Jahnke said. “I think we’re just excited and ready.”
You couldn’t tell by the reaction that the Tigers had qualified for the 16-team state tourney. After the final out was recorded, the players calmly went into the postgame handshake line like it was a run-of-the-mill midseason victory.
That’s no surprise to Diaz and his team filled with eight seniors.
“We expected to be here,” Diaz said. “We’ve had a lot of these girls for four years, a lot of them are seniors. We expected to come this far, and we’re excited.”