AURORA — Ask head coach Nicole Janssen, and the Chatfield Lady Chargers probably weren’t expected to be at the 5A state softball tournament anyway. Chatfield returned just five seniors from last year’s state-qualifying squad. But there they were at Aurora Sports Park on Oct. 19.
And they made themselves heard, albeit briefly.
The 12th-seeded Lady Chargers, a major underdog against Legacy, gave the Lady Lightning quite the fight before a pair of home runs from Celyn Whitt and Alyssa Geist in the bottom of the fifth ended Chatfield’s season with a 6-2 loss. The Lady Chargers end their season in the first round of the 16-team tournament with a 13-10 record.
“You know they had nothing to lose. I think they learned a lot,” Janssen said. “We did have a lot of underclassmen. It’s a lesson to learn in state, knowing what it’s like to be here. A lot of these girls were a little bit humbled by being in this experience, but they’re learning from this. No matter what, they gave it 100 percent.”
Chatfield fell behind 2-0 early, including an unearned run for Legacy in the bottom of the third, but the Lady Chargers tied the game in the fifth on back-to-back singles from Rachel Vangulick and Madison Nedved. Legacy, a five-time 5A state champion from 2008-12, however, broke the tie on Whitt’s one-out, two-run homer in the bottom of the fifth. Two batters later, Geist homered, which eventually closed the scoring against Chatfield starter Jessica Jarecki.
“We picked up our momentum. Then somehow it fizzled out,” Vangulick said. “I’ll give it to the Legacy girl. She’s a great pitcher. She hit her corners. She did what she’s supposed to do.”
That pitcher — Haley Smith — struck out 13 batters, including five with runners in scoring position and eight with runners on base. Smith painted the outside corner, tying up Chatfield batters time and again.
“At the beginning we were kind of slow,” said Natalie Guber, who struck out three times but also scored one of Chatfield’s two runs following a fifth-inning walk. Quinn Dentino scored the other run. “We started picking it up. We were staying with them.”
But Chatfield couldn’t take advantages of its opportunities, stranding 10 runners on base, including seven in the final three innings.
“We weren’t the team that we hit like all year. I was expecting a little more hitting,” Janssen said. “That pitcher kept us off-balanced. She did a great job.”
Contact Michael Hicks at email@example.com or 303-933-2233, ext. 15.