Familiarity helps GJ Swat beat back competition on softball field
By PATRICK BAHR
Tad Ritter and Scott Else are the coaches for the GJ Swat, an under-18 competitive softball team, but at this point, being the coach of the Swat isn’t as important as it once was.
Ritter and Else have coached their daughters, Joei Ritter and Taylor Else, in competitive softball the past five years, and over that time have watched the Swat win more than 150 games.
“Now, we just sit back and watch. They know what to do because they have played so many games,” Tad Ritter said. “They make a mistake and they go, ‘I know,’ and throw up the hand.”
The Swat has gone from a group of eager 12-year-olds testing the waters of competitive softball to a group of solid high school players making their presence felt around the competitive softball circuit.
The Swat recently won the USSSA Mountain States Championship in Loveland, winning 11 games in two days. The Swat had to play six games on the final day to make their way out of the losers’ bracket to win the championship.
“Our first game was at 9:30 a.m. and the championship game ended at 10:05 p.m.,” Ritter said.
“I was coaching third and I heard their coach commenting on how did we have so much energy.
Our team was all up at the fence still cheering and I think it’s a tribute to the girls’ will to win.”
The Swat has players from Grand Junction, Central and Fruita Monument high schools, and despite the rivalries during the school year, the girls team up during the summer.
“Off the field, we will talk smack about the other schools,” Joei Ritter said. “But we know that everyone is a good player, and we all get along on the field.”
The roster includes players like former Central pitcher Ashley Goletz, who will be playing at Colorado School of Mines in the spring. Grand Junction’s Paula Lage and Rifle’s Alisha Rodebaugh are also on the team, with Rodebaugh driving from Meeker for every practice and tournament.
“They have been getting along since they were 12,” Tad Ritter said. “There is no fighting on the bench, it’s more, ‘we have a job to do, let’s go do it.’ ”
This week, the Swat is playing in the Triple Crown World Series in Park City, Utah. The tournament attracts some of the best teams in the western United States, with the Swat competing against 14 other teams in the 18-U ‘B’ division.
“With winning the state tourney, we are on an upswing,” Tad Ritter said. “Our goal is to finish in the top three, and you ask any of the girls and they would say if we don’t finish in the top three we would be disappointed.”
Regardless of where the Swat finishes, the girls said it’s great experience getting to play quality competition. Lage said she tries to learn something new at every big tournament.
“All these teams are so different, and you see some things you haven’t seen before,” Lage said.
“With me, when I see something I like, I try to do it, and it helps my game.”
The Fruita Black Ice will also be playing in the 18-U ‘B’ division and the 16-U Grand Junction Mystics will be playing in the ‘B’ division.