By Craig Harper
For the Courier
Chatfield returns six starters from last year’s 5A state-qualifying team. But it’s a misleading number, as four of those began the 2014 season in different positions.
“We just lost some key positions,” coach Nicole Janssen explained of a revamped lineup for the Aug. 15 opener at D’Evelyn. “We had kids all over the place; it was really awkward for some of them.”
But there is one very important constant: the return of No. 1 pitcher Jessica Jarecki.
D’Evelyn, which reached last year’s 4A quarterfinals and was No. 9 in the CHSAA preseason rankings, got to Jarecki for three runs in the third inning and a 4-0 lead. But the junior right-hander blanked the Lady Jaguars on two hits the rest of the way, allowing Chatfield to complete a 5-4 come-from-behind win in nine innings.
“We’re jelling as a team and we have a lot of new girls,” said Jarecki, who had 14 strikeouts and allowed seven hits. “It’s good that for the first game we’re already working as a team.”
But a victory was anything but apparent. The Lady Chargers left the bases loaded with no outs after scoring a run in the fourth, and faced a similar situation trailing 4-1 in the seventh after singles by Jarecki and Haley Milonas and a walk.
But Isabell Goff, a transfer from Broomfield, plated Jarecki on a fielder’s choice and senior Dani Starks followed with a equalizing pinch-hit, two-run single.
Chatfield won it in the ninth on a single, a walk and consecutive hit-by-pitches.
“Leaving base runners on, that’s one thing we’ve got to get a little bit better at,” Janssen said of the fourth inning. “That should be easy runs counted. At least one run, you would hope.”
Janssen felt the failure to convert deflated her team.
“They’re still trying to get to that point to believe and being a team and being united,” she said. “Around the third and fourth innings they were pretty quiet. We had to get them to realize it’s very important that they have to be vocal, they have to stay up, because it’s softball and anything can happen.”
“We just got it back together,” Jarecki said of the seventh inning. “We got some fresh (players) out there to get us going again.”
After allowing a single in the fifth, Jarecki retired nine straight batters before Kelsey Marvel doubled with one out in the eighth. But Jarecki fanned two straight to end the eighth and she retired the side in order in the ninth.
“We try to remind her as long as she’s doing her job — getting the ground balls, keeping outs — there’s nothing else she can do,” Janssen said of Jarecki. “She did exactly what she needed to do, and I think she got stronger as the game went on.”