Tigers, Wildcats fall short of state tournament
ARVADA — Hold your thumb and index finger about a quarter of an inch apart.
That’s how close the Grand Junction High School softball team came to qualifying for the CHSAA Class 5A state softball tournament.
The Tigers were within one strike on consecutive batters of defeating Standley Lake and earning one of their region’s two state softball berths.
Instead, the Gators came through with a couple of timely hits to defeat the Tigers 4-2 in the Region 6 second-place game and earn the region’s other state berth.
“Remember the pain,” Tigers coach Adam Diaz told his team in the post-game huddle about coming ever-so close to qualifying for the state tournament. “Remember how you feel right now.”
He’s hoping his words will motivate his players to work hard in the off-season.
The game was played Sunday following the resumption of Grand Junction’s winners’ bracket game against Chatfield, which was suspended in the sixth inning Saturday because inclement weather.
The game resumed with one out in the sixth inning and the Tigers at bat with one runner on, trailing 3-0 against the state’s No. 3 seed.
Arrianna Diaz singled home Bree Baldwin from second to pull the Tigers within 3-1, but Chatfield scored three times in the bottom of the inning to secure the regional championship with a 6-1 victory.
That pitted Grand Junction against Standley Lake in the second-place game, the winner earning that second state berth. Grand Junction had defeated the Gators 10-5 in its tournament opener Saturday.
It appeared to be more of the same when the Tigers plated two runs in the bottom of the first, Baldwin scoring on a wild pitch and Elisha Jahnke singling home another run.
The Tigers then left things in the hands of Jahnke on the mound. The right-hander held the Gators scoreless through five innings, giving up just two hits.
Standley Lake finally got on the board in the sixth on a walk and a run-scoring single.
The Gators were down to their last out in the top of the seventh with a runner on second. Jahnke got two strikes on each of the next two batters, but both scratched out singles to right to tie the game.
With the bases loaded, Jahnke induced a pop out to end the inning
The Gators scored two runs on an RBI ground-out and an error to take their first lead at 4-2 in the eighth.
The Tigers got a runner aboard with two outs in their half of the inning, but the rally ended there.
Grand Junction was limited to two runs despite having 11 hits.
“We couldn’t put two or three hits together,” a frustrated Adam Diaz said. “We left too many runners on.”
He also gave the Gators their due.
“They earned it,” he said. “They stepped up when they needed to; we didn’t.”
The Tigers (17-4) graduate just one senior starter from the team, Adam Diaz’s daughter, Arrianna, the shortstop.
Jahnke said the loss to Standley Lake will serve as motivation for next season.
“Hopefully I’ll push myself for next year, so we can make it to state,” she said.
Legend 12, Fruita Monument 7
A disastrous start was more than Fruita Monument could overcome as it lost 12-7 to Legend in CHSAA Class 5A regional softball Sunday.
The game was for second place and a berth in the state tournament.
The 11th-seeded Wildcats (15-7) committed four errors in the first inning and fell behind 5-0. Legend, the 22nd seed, added three more runs in the top of the second for an 8-0 advantage.
Fruita battled back with two runs apiece in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings, the latter two frames highlighted by two-run home runs by Kenzi DeCrow and Mallory Paulson. Legend, however, scored four runs in the top of the sixth.
“I’m proud of the kids,” Fruita coach Jack Thomas said. “They left it all on the field. They showed some heart.”