Lafferty among prep athletes living the dream

Grand Junction athlete Tristan Lafferty, who will play baseball for Colorado Mesa University, stands as he is introduced at a signing ceremony Wednesday at the school. Also signing college letters of intent were, from left, Broderick Robinson, Northeast Kansas Technical College (basketball), Dillon Fante, Phoenix College (baseball), Kaleb Johnson, Chandler Gilbert Community College (baseball) and Neil Ryan, Concordia University (baseball).



As a little kid, Tristan Lafferty thought he could go wherever he wanted to play college baseball.

As he grew older, he realized that decision gets made more by the college than the athlete.

The Grand Junction High School first baseman entered his senior year thinking he probably was heading to a junior college to play baseball because no NCAA Division II programs were calling.

But after playing in the Fall Classic, he not only heard from a Division II university, it was the one he wanted to play for all along: Colorado Mesa.

Lafferty said he verbally committed to the Mavericks in December, and Wednesday he made it official by signing his national letter of intent to play for CMU.

“I always wanted to go to Mesa,” he said. “They’re one of the better Division II teams in the country.”

Colorado Mesa coach Chris Hanks said Lafferty figures to play first base or designated hitter for the Mavericks.

He said what he likes about Lafferty is “No. 1, he wanted to be at Mesa, and No. 2, he has some ability to swing the bat. ... He has some bat speed and strength in his hands and a little bit of rhythm and timing.”

Lafferty was among 15 athletes from Grand Junction and Fruita Monument high schools to sign letters of intent Wednesday.

Baseball

Four Grand Junction players — Lafferty, Dillon Fante, Kaleb Johnson and Neil Ryan — and two Fruita players — Cody Basinger and Colton Chamberlain — signed Wednesday to play college baseball.

Fante is headed to Phoenix College, a junior college in Phoenix, Ariz., where he likes the weather — “I do not like the cold at all,” he said — and the proximity to Grand Junction.

He also wants to keep playing baseball, adding, “I just want to get through this and see where that takes me, kind of live this as long as I can.”

Johnson chose Chandler-Gilbert Community College, which is about 45 minutes south of Phoenix. He expects to be an outfielder for the Coyotes, and Grand Junction coach Donnie Alexander said Johnson has potential as a pitcher, too.

Johnson said he visited Chandler-Gilbert during spring break and verbally committed to the Coyotes “right then and there.”

Ryan is going to Concordia University, an NAIA school in Seward, Neb. He said the Bulldogs’ coach saw him at a showcase camp, invited him to tour the school, and he really liked the coach and what he saw at the university.

Ryan, a 6-foot-2, 180-pound pitcher, said he has a good chance to pitch regularly as a freshman.

Chamberlain will join Fante at Phoenix College. He said he got a chance to play in the Phoenix area and liked the area and weather, making his choice easy.

Chamberlain said he will pitch for the Bears, and he intends to get bigger and stronger, and he hopes it leads to an opportunity to pitch at the NCAA Division I or II level.

Basinger is headed to Trinidad State Junior College in southeast Colorado, where he said, “They’re famous for their ball club” and getting their players scholarships to four-year programs, which he hopes to do.

He expects to play third base for Trinidad, but he’s open to whatever is asked of him, saying, “I’ll do anything.”

Basketball

Grand Junction’s Broderick Robinson verbally committed to Northwest Kansas Technical College in late March.

He told The Daily Sentinel at that time he hopes the junior college experience will land him at a major Division I program.

He added, “They recruited harder than anybody, and the coaches were great guys. And I fit into their up-tempo playing style.”

Fruita Monument’s Kassidy Fair decided to play for McCook Community College with an eye toward catching on at a four-year program, possibly for Division II program in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference.

“I always wanted to play at CMU,” she said. “I do want to play at the Division II level, wherever that may be.”

Volleyball

Fruita Monument’s Mackenzie Schuller will play for the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs, and Wildcat teammate Lindsey Thomson will play for the Indiana Institute of Technology, an NAIA school.

Schuller said she was unsure about playing volleyball in college, and she had applied to UCCS just for the education. Then, the Mountain Lions’ coach met with her, watched her play, made her an offer, and Schuller accepted.

“I was going to go there anyways,” Schuller said. “Throw the volleyball in there, that’s a bonus.”

Thomson said she visited the Indiana Institute of Technology a week ago and found it to be the academic and athletic fit she was looking for. The academics were the most important part of the equation because she was looking for a college with a good software-engineering program.

But playing volleyball “means a lot to me,” she said, “because I want to be a coach after I graduate and coach club volleyball.”

Soccer

Fruita Monument’s Wesley Padgett and Lukas Smith will play soccer at Trinidad State.

They visited the college together, but they made their decisions without knowing what the other had decided.

Padgett said hopes to hone his skills at Trinidad and eventually play for an NCAA Division I University. He said Division II schools were interested in him, but, “I thought this was a good place to start out.”

And, like Padgett, Smith said he hopes more college soccer awaits after two years at the junior college, adding, “Trinidad is known for sending players to very good Division I and Division II schools.”

Cross country/track

Fruita Monument’s Cassi Ahrens will run cross country and track at Western State Colorado University.

She fell just shy of qualifying for state as a senior in cross country, and she thinks her best days are still to come.

“They have one of the most competitive distance programs in the country,” she said, adding that training at the higher elevation in Gunnison will be to her benefit.

“She’s all about more,” said her high school coach, Herb Huskey. “She just loves to run so much.”

Football

Fruita Monument’s Matt Story and Brandon Kubick decided to go to opposite coasts to play college football: Story at Hamilton College in New York, and Kubick at the University of Redlands in California.

Story, a two-time All-SWL selection at linebacker, announced his verbal commitment to play football in February. He told The Daily Sentinel at that time he wanted to play a sport in college, but it had to be at a school with a good pre-medical program.

Story also was a first-team All-SWL selection in basketball.

Kubick said he chose Redlands over another NCAA Division III program, Lewis and Clark in Oregon. The 6-foot, 200-pound receiver said Redlands coaches have been recruiting him for several months.

Kubick said Redlands is a perennial title contender in its conference, and he hopes to crack the starting lineup at wide receiver as a freshman. From there, he said, “I want to be the best in the league.”


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