Softball teams in Grand Valley to test skills in Peach Fuzz Invitational
This weekend will tell the four Grand Valley high school softball teams a great deal.
Grand Junction, Palisade and Fruita Monument all will be in the Peach Fuzz Invitational at the Kronkright Complex. Central plays Friday at Columbine and Saturday in the Brighton City Invitational.
That’s at least three games in two days, which should help the details of the season begin to get ironed out.
Here’s a closer look at the four Grand Valley teams and what they’ll have on the field this season.
BETWEEN THE LINES: After a 16-7 season last year, the Tigers enter their second season under head coach Adam Diaz. Grand Junction got off to a 7-1 start before going 6-4 in the Southwestern League. Grand Junction returns five starters, and got a confidence boost from its season-opening 18-10 win over Columbine.
THE TEAM LEADER: Paula Lage, Jr., C
Lage moves from first base to behind the plate, and will have to provide leadership to the Tigers’ new starting pitchers Cierra Cosslett and Arrianna Diaz. Lage has a lot of arm strength, and will be daring base runners to steal on her.
THE PLAYMAKER: Jenny Kelly, Sr., SS
Kelly moves from third base to shortstop, and should be able to make plays on most of the balls hit her way. At the plate, Kelly has a consistent bat and puts the ball in play.
“Jenny has a strong stick, with good mechanics,” Diaz said. “She likes being in the situation when the game is on the line and we need runs. She will not back away.”
THE NEWCOMER: Arrianna Diaz, Fr., P/IF
Arrianna Diaz is the coach’s daughter, and will be counted on to provide a strong second threat for the Tigers in the pitching circle. Diaz also will play shortstop and second base.
EXPECTATIONS: The Tigers have an easier nonleague schedule, which should help them prepare for their league opener Sept. 15 against Fruita Monument. Grand Junction has a talented team that can make a run at dethroning Central for the SWL title.
“The Peach Fuzz will be great for us,” Diaz said. “We will grow with each and every game, and that’s what we want.”
BETWEEN THE LINES: Palisade was inconsistent last season, and dug itself a hole early, starting out 2-6. The Bulldogs missed the playoffs and had trouble keeping opponents’ run totals down. This year appears to be a different story. Palisade already has two big victories against Aspen (15-0) and Basalt (17-2).
THE TEAM LEADER: Hannah Tredway, Sr., 2B
Tredway had an all-state season last year after moving from Gunnison. She makes things happen, and is a vocal leader for the infield.
“She is a good motivator, and team captain with intensity,” coach John Vanlandingham said.
THE PLAYMAKER: Shelby Hanson, Jr., P
Hanson is the Bulldogs’ ace on the mound, and has improved on a solid sophomore season. Vanlandingham said Hanson has been working hard in the offseason and has improved her control and speed.
THE NEWCOMER: Angela Gordon, Fr., UT
Gordon has been designated as the Bulldogs’ pinch runner. The speedy youngster can make it from home to first in 2.9 seconds, and is home to home in under 12 seconds. Gordon’s speed will mesh perfectly with Vanlandingham’s offensive philosophy.
“The way the girls came out and have been running, I think good things will happen,” Vanlandingham said.
EXPECTATIONS: Palisade is ready to have a breakout season, and might just have the talent to do it. Pitcher Emily Crow will be important for the Bulldogs.
“I’m very happy with what I’ve seen,” Vanlandingham said. “This is one of the first years we are playing as team and it showed.”
BETWEEN THE LINES: Central put together a memorable 2008 season, finishing 19-4 and advancing to regionals. The Warriors are junior-heavy and, under first-year coach Scott Else, have their eyes set on championship gold.
THE TEAM LEADER: Taylor Else, Sr., SS
Else is a four-year starter, and is one of three seniors who start for the Warriors. Else knows what it takes to be successful, and will be the undisputed commander of the infield.
THE PLAYMAKER: Mikayla Duffy, Jr., P
Duffy’s rocket arm has been mowing down batters the past two seasons. The talented lefty is an intimidating force, and will be counted on to keep the opposing team’s runs to a minimum.
THE NEWCOMER: Katie Fox, Jr. OF
Fox will be called upon to fill a bigger role this year. Fox will play right field for the Warriors, which is one of the most important positions for Central when Duffy’s pitching.
“Right field is key because Mikayla throws so hard that most are hit to right field,” Else said. “Katie has been in it since she was a freshman, but has had some good upperclassmen above her.”
EXPECTATIONS: The bar is high for the Warriors, who have a point to prove against teams on the Front Range. Central doesn’t have a glaring weakness, and could be one of the best defensive teams in the state with players like catcher Danielle Romine and utility player Brittany Hoppe.
“We want to win the SWL again and go to state,” Else said. “We have a pretty good team.”
BETWEEN THE LINES: New coach Jamie Dunn is a tidal wave of intensity for the Wildcats’ program. Dunn has the softball credentials, an All-American at Mesa State, and after taking a few years away from coaching, is ready to take Fruita to the next level. Dunn inherits a lot of talent, but has spent the early part of the season breaking players of bad habits.
THE TEAM LEADER: Brooke Williams, Sr., IF
Williams was an all-league infielder for the Wildcats last season, and is one of the most talented players in the Grand Valley.
THE PLAYMAKER: Ashley Wissel, Sr., C
Wissel is a wall behind the plate, and works well with Wildcats’ ace Erika Chirdon.
Wissel has a big bat, and will be key in Fruita’s success at the plate.
THE NEWCOMER: Nika Schminke, Jr., OF
Schminke returns to softball after taking a year off to play volleyball last season. Dunn said she is counting on Schminke to be an important utility player.
“She has really hustled, and has a great attitude,” Dunn said. “She’s a new name that
will really contribute.”
EXPECTATIONS: Dunn is hesitant to put any expectations on the season until the Wildcats get some games under their belts. Developing consistency is the key.
“We really have to take it one game at a time and see what happens,” Dunn said. “So far it’s been one day we’ll have a good practice and you think ‘man, we’ll be all right’, then we have a day where it takes us 45 minutes to warm our arms up.”