Vista, Ranch gear up for 5A softball tournament

Posted 10/22/08

Nineteen regular season games and 2-3 more during regional qualifying have all led up to this weekend’s big dance: the 2008 5A state high school …

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Vista, Ranch gear up for 5A softball tournament


Nineteen regular season games and 2-3 more during regional qualifying have all led up to this weekend’s big dance: the 2008 5A state high school softball championship.

Now is the time for Mountain Vista and Highlands Ranch to strut its stuff.

Games are scheduled for this Friday and Saturday, Oct. 17-18, at the Aurora Sports Park, located at 18601 E. Sports Park Drive in Aurora (Colfax Ave. east off I-225). Games begin at 10 a.m. each day. Visit to view the full bracket.

The Eagles, who won the Continental League for a fifth straight year by going 10-0 and swept through the Region 4 qualifier in Loveland with a pair of 5-1 victories over Poudre and Cherokee Trail, enter Friday’s opening round action at 18-3 overall and with the fourth seed among the 16-team field.

Vista will take on 13th-seeded Pomona (16-6), which placed fifth in the Jeffco League, at 10 a.m. Oct. 17. A victory here would put them in the 2:30 p.m. quarterfinal round against either fifth-seeded Chaparral (17-4) or 12th-seeded Cherokee Trail (14-8).

Chaparral, of course, would be a familiar opponent as the Wolverines are also members of the Continental League and placed third at 8-2. The two went head-to-head Sept. 19 with Vista winning a tight, 2-1 decision.

Advancing to Saturday’s semifinal could pit the Eagles against top-ranked Rocky Mountain (20-1).

“I think Pomona is probably better than a 13 seed. Perennially, Jeffco teams are always good and there are good teams up and down their league, which prepares them a little more so than some other conferences,” head coach Bret Grammerstorf said. “But we have to play who we have to play.”

Grammerstorf noted his girls are trained to not worry about the competition.

“We just worry about ourselves and what we have to do to get better,” he said. “Hopefully we continue to pitch well and play good defense and get timely hitting. If we do that I’m not sure it matters who we play. We just have to do what we do.”

Pomona has two solid pitchers in Jordyn Randolph and Kelsey Kimminau. Randolph has seen 74 innings this season and is 7-3 with a 2.27 ERA while Kimminau has worked 56 innings and is 7-1 with a 2.12 ERA. Both average well over one strikeout per inning pitched.

Offensively, the Panthers are led by Alyssa Zimmerman, whom Grammerstorf said was one of the best in the state. The junior is hitting .500 with a team-high 18 RBI. Of her 21 hits, six are doubles, four are triples, and she has one home run. Halie Malone (.493, 17 RBI) and Ashley Martinez (.429, 11 RBI, 2 home runs) are also formidable.

Kelly Unkrich will be charged with shutting down the Pomona offense. The senior should be up for the task as she has posted a tremendous season, going 17-1 with a 0.84 ERA. In her 108 innings of work, Unkrich has allowed just 58 hits and 15 walks while striking out 148.

As for the Eagles’ offense, Lauren Dalton has been the top hitter this season and enters the tournament sporting a .431 average with 23 runs scored and 14 RBI, also belting five doubles and three home runs. Cedar Blazek has been solid as well, hitting .397 with 16 runs, 13 RBI, four doubles, and two home runs. Cam Smallwood (.396, 12 runs, 8 RBI), Marina Long (.370, 13 RBI), and Brooke Healey (.351, 9 runs) are also dangerous with the bat.

The Falcons placed second to Vista in the Continental at 9-1 and qualified for states by placing second in Region 3 to Ralston Valley. With a record of 19-3 overall, Ranch has been given the 11th seed in 5A.

Play will begin for Ranch Oct. 17 at 12:15 p.m. against sixth-seeded Arvada West (14-7), which was second to Bear Creek in the Jeffco League at 6-3. Third-seeded Bear Creek (19-2) would be the likely quarterfinal opponent, with second-seeded and defending champion Legacy (19-2) possibly waiting in the semifinals.

All-in-all, this would be a tough road to hoe for any team.

“If you are going to be successful at states, you usually have to go through a couple of Jeffco teams,” head coach Jeff Markle said. “We’ve got our work cut out for us, that’s for sure. But if the sun were to shine on us and we made it through to Saturday, we’d fell lucky to be in that position and be confident we deserved to be there.”

The match-ups for Ranch are familiar ones, at least. The Falcons took on Arvada West twice this season, defeating the Wildcats 2-0 Aug. 28 and again by a 5-2 margin Sept. 6 in the Dave Sanders tournament held at this very same Aurora Sports Park. In that game, Danielle Williams blasted a grand slam as Ranch overcame a 2-1 deficit in the bottom of the sixth inning.

The Falcons also faced Bear Creek that very same day, losing 2-1 to the Bears in the championship game.

Needless to say, Highlands Ranch would relish another shot at the Jeffco champion.

But Arvada West is first and foremost, and the Wildcats offer some stiff competition with three reliable hurlers and a couple of offensive stalwarts. Mikey Kennedy was the Jeffco Player of the Year and leads the charge on offense with her .467 average to go along with 21 runs and 21 RBI. Behind her, Lindsey Worth is hitting .429 with 11 runs and 11 RBI. Erica Haugum is another big hitter, with 16 RBI and six doubles while hitting .353.

Claire Harmer has seen the most work on the mound for Arvada West, going 76 innings thus far with a 7-4 record and 1.84 ERA. Jordan Schoepflin has a 3-3 mark and 1.17 ERA in 36 innings while Mariah Trujillo is 2-1 with a 1.47 ERA in 19 innings.

The bright side is that none of the pitchers has put up big strikeout numbers, and all have allowed about one hit per inning of work. If the Falcon offense is on for this game, a trip to the quarters should be in order.

Kaitlin York will get the call to shut down the Wildcats, and the Falcons will ride her arm as far as the junior will take them. She has posted a strong year – her first as Ranch’s full-time starter – by going 14-2 in 109 innings with a 1.35 ERA. She has allowed 81 hits and 16 walks while fanning 100.

Offensively, the Falcons are led by Kamee Vessey’s .517 average and 24 runs scored. Vessey has batted in 18 to go along with six doubles, two triples, and three home runs. Tahnea Leeling has been the big run-producer, hitting .459 with 30 RBI and seven home run. Others to watch at the plate are Leia Swierczewski (.473, 17 runs, 14 RBI), Danielle Williams (.453, 13 RBI), and York (.364, 14 RBI).


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