Fruita rallies twice to win state crown
The Fruita Little League Major Girls wouldn’t be denied when its fate was on the line.
Tuesday at Little Salt Wash Park, Fruita overcame a seven-run first-inning deficit, and a two-run deficit in the eighth inning to defeat Shaw Heights (Westminster) Little League 14-13 for the Colorado Little League Major Girls championship.
Fruita advances to the Southwestern Regional Tournament in Waco, Texas beginning on July 30.
“Hats off to Shaw Heights, it was a good ballgame that everyone enjoyed,” Fruita manager Josh Zambrano said. “But this was another magical one. These girls are figuring out more and more about themselves and about this team.”
Fruita earned the state title by striking back every time Shaw Heights tried to put the game out of reach.
Shaw Heights jumped to a 7-0 lead to open up the game, but Fruita worked its way back to trail 11-9 heading into the bottom of the six inning.
In the sixth, Fruita’s Karli Myers hit a RBI double that scored Rachel Skillicorn to cut the game to 11-10. Myers scored when the next batter, Morgan Hyde, flied out to right field.
Shaw Heights had a bead on Myers, who was attempting to advance to third base, but an overthrown ball allowed Myers to score and tie the game at 11-11.
Zambrano said that was the first time he felt some relief after the slow start.
“We kept chipping away and the turning point was when we tied it up,” Zambrano said. “I thought we have a shot. This group knows they can win when they are down.”
Neither team could muster a run in the seventh inning.
Much of the reason Fruita got back into the game was because of the pitching of Lauren Reed. The 11-year-old gave up the 11 runs in the first three innings, then shut down Shaw Heights for the next four innings.
Reed ran out of stamina by the time the eighth rolled around. “Lauren was beat,” Zambrano said. “If she has to throw six or seven innings, she can do it, but she gets gassed. She did an awesome job and pitched her heart out.”
In the eighth, Hyde replaced Reed, and allowed two runs on four walks that gave Shaw Heights the 13-11 lead.
Fruita defeated Shaw Heights in the first game of the state tournament, which forced Shaw Heights to defeat Fruita twice to win the state title.
Despite having the “if” game to rely on, Zambrano said he wanted his team to realize that scoring the needed three runs gave them the title.
“I told them they have to get three outs,” Zambrano said. “Once we got our base runner on, I knew we were in good shape.”
Hyde was the first to reach base by beating out a ground ball. Emily Wood reached on error, then Britnei Shive loaded the bases with a walk.
ShaRae Dorcher drew a walk to bring the game to 13-11, then Olivia Bratt hit a RBI single to tie the game at 13-13.
Arianna Zambrano sent her team to the Southwestern Regional by drawing a walk to score Shive for the winning run.
“This is an excited group of girls, and they deserve every ounce of it,” Josh Zambrano said.