Hays’ hot hitting started after trip
Coming back home, at least for a weekend, helped Tyler Hays immensely.
The former Central softball star said she was having an up-and-down sophomore season with Adams State, at least by her lofty standards, coming into the Grizzlies first series against Colorado Mesa University. Hays said she took some time to work with her dad and that helped her refocus. It also kicked off an incredible stretch of hitting.
Hays pounded out hits in 20 of 23 games in the middle of the season, including the back half of the series against the Mavericks. She had five hits in a game against New Mexico Highlands and had four-hit games multiple times in that span.
“I think when we came back to Mesa, that first day I went out with my dad and hit and that helped me kinda clear my head and helped me figure out what I need to do.” Hays said. “That was a big part of what was helping me out, and what (coach) Dervin (Taylor) was teaching me, it just kinda went from there.”
Hays ended the season hitting an RMAC-best .493 with 69 hits, 16 doubles and four home runs. In 140 at-bats, she struck out only 10 times. She capped her season with Co-Offensive Player of the Year honors in the RMAC and is set to be a lead for a young Grizzlies squad on the rise.
“We’re going to be very young next season,” Hays said. “We have the 20 or so freshmen from last year and the sophomore class I was in. We lost nine seniors, but we’re a young team with a lot of talent.”
That young talent includes a couple other locals.
Fruita’s Sheridan Van Hoose, going into her junior year, and Grand Junction’s Morgan Zanski, heading into her senior year, made minor contributions last season, but could see expanded roles this year.
Down at Ole Miss, Elisha Jahnke, a Grand Junction graduate, pitched fewer innings in her junior season than she did in the year prior. Still, despite appearing in 25 fewer games, she had a 1.70 ERA and 12 strikeouts in 12.1 innings and she was a key piece in the school’s first SEC Tournament championship. The Rebels never trailed in the tournament.
Jahnke was also the Ole Miss student-athlete of the month in October 2016.
For the past two seasons, Leah Swander has been at the center of the University of Denver’s offensive scheme.
Swander made 17 starts for the Pioneers, tied for second on the team, and scored two goals. She also led the team with 17 shots on goal and 63 shots.
“It’s definitely a lot of pressure sometimes, just when there’s like a tied game and it’s your job to score,” she said. “That’s why I take a lot of shots. Honestly, I kinda like it. All my life, I’ve been a forward. Growing up, I was always the physical scorer and there’s a lot of pressure, but it’s kind of a relief when you do score because you put the team on your back and got the win.”
But the biggest jump this past season came from Denver’s record. After finishing 4-12-1 and in the 2015 season, the Pioneers were 8-9-2 this year and split the Summit League championship with North Dakota State.
“When I committed we were top 10 and we’ve kinda gone downhill since then,” Swander said. “But these last two years have been amazing. Obviously, the first year we didn’t do too well, but to go from that to co-Summit League champs has been awesome. All of my teammates are my best friends.”
Courtney Coffey, a former Fruita standout also with the Pioneers, sat out last season, but is listed on the 2017 roster.
Fruita’s Jordan Padgett made her Division I debut, appearing in five games for St. Mary’s College (California).
Chante Church, a former Rifle guard, broke the single-game scoring record at Regis University.
Church netted 40 points against University of Colorado-Colorado Springs, shooting 11 of 16 from the field, 7 of 9 from beyond the arc and 11 of 14 from the line. She averaged 9.8 points per game and made 23 starts.
Montrose post player Elle Pace came off the bench for the Portland State (Oregon) women’s basketball team during her freshman season, appearing 13 times. She scored 16 points with two blocks and two steals.
Lydia Knutson, who swam for Montrose High School, turned in several top times for the Air Force Academy.
She was the fastest on the Falcons in the 50-yard freestyle (22.65) and 100 freestyle (50.24). She also was part of top relay teams, competing in the 200 freestyle, 400 freestyle and 200 medley relays.
Grand Junction’s Taylor Kidd won all-Summit League honors as a member of South Dakota State’s 400 freestyle relay and finished 10th in the 200 freestyle at the Summit League Championships with a time of 1:53.37.
She was on two school-record-breaking relays, setting high marks in the 400 and 800 freestyle relays.