Headed to state: Warriors, Wildcats win regional titles, await state tourney pairings
Both the Central and Fruita Monument high school softball teams found themselves in tight spots, but neither team panicked.
Instead, the teams remained cool, seizing the opportunity when they needed to Saturday to win Class 5A region titles at Canyon View Park and advance to the state championship tournament next weekend in Aurora. State tournament seeds and pairings are expected to be released today by the Colorado High School Activities Association.
Mikayla Duffy hit a walk-off home run to lift Central to a 5-4 victory over Cherokee Trail shortly after Fruita Monument manufactured a couple runs to squeeze out a 2-0 victory over Eaglecrest in the regional finals.
“I knew if Brittany (Hoppe) got on, I was going to hit,” Duffy said. “If I didn’t do it, D (Danielle Romine) was right there and on with our lineup. I was saying (to myself) get a hit, find some grass, don’t try to do too much. I didn’t I guess. I couldn’t do it without my team cheering me on.
“You always get that adrenaline rush when you are down in the bottom of the seventh. We had to keep cool and not panic. We had to keep calm and take it in the bottom of the seventh, which I knew we would.”
Fruita Monument (19-2) broke a scoreless tie in the fourth when Mallory Paulson scored from third on a sacrifice bunt. Shanyn Thomas scored an insurance run on a passed ball.
Afterward, there was no celebration.
“That’s what I asked the girls, ‘What’s going on? You just won the regional tournament and blanked two teams. Are you guys OK? Should I be concerned?’ ” Fruita coach Jamie Dunn said. “I can’t remember who said it, but someone said ‘Coach I think we showed up and expected to win. Not to be arrogant about it, but we expected to win.’ Even though we were striking out, we didn’t get nervous. We didn’t start over-swinging. I’m just proud of them.”
The Wildcats won it without hitting the ball like they have all season. Fruita had 11 hits in the two games.
Paulson and Erika Chirdon didn’t need many hits, just enough to score a run or two.
Paulson, a sophomore, limited the Raptors (14-8) to one hit in the fifth inning and struck out 11 in the victory.
“I was confident I had a good defense behind me,” Paulson said. “I wanted to go out there, pitch and get us to state.
“Ashleigh (Wissel) was calling good pitches for me and they just happened to do what they are supposed to do.”
Chirdon, a senior, limited Westminster to two hits and struck out three in the Wildcats’ 5-0 victory in the first round.
Fruita gave her four runs of support in the first inning on two-run singles by Mariaha O’Dell and Taylor Johnson. Hannah Englbrecht hit a solo home run in the sixth.
Central (18-3) had more than enough offense, scoring 21 runs on 23 hits, including four home runs in the two wins.
The Warriors scored 16 times, but only needed one in a 16-0 victory over Rangeview (12-9) because of Duffy’s no-hitter.
The senior left-hander, who has verbally committed to the University of Northern Colorado, limited the Raiders to three walks and struck out 10. She limited Cherokee Trail to four runs on five hits and struck out nine.
“(Duffy) threw two (games) in a row and she hasn’t throw two in a row all year,” Else said. “It was a gritty performance. Hats off to the middle of the order.”
Central jumped out to a 3-0 lead against Cherokee Trail in the regional final, but the Cougars came back to take a 4-3 lead in the top of the seventh before Duffy’s game-winning home run.
“I’m hoping if we can get out of there with no runs at all or one run, we have a pretty good shot with the lineup coming up,” Else said. “Brittany Hoppe has a good on-base percentage. They came through. I told Mik don’t do anything outrageous, just hit the ball hard and it went.”
Douglas County and Arvada West earned the other qualifying spots.