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Lady Chargers returning to state

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Chatfield softball team works its way back through the consolation draw

By Michael Hicks

It went without saying that 2013 was going to be a challenging season for the Chatfield Lady Chargers. Last year’s team rode Rebecka Mintz’s pitching and Carlie Sexton’s hitting to a 5A state tournament berth. But both of them graduated, and this year’s squad had to fill those spots through a handful of players. With the perseverance Chatfield showed Oct. 12 at the 5A Region 3 softball tournament, the spots have been filled quite nicely.

Their backs against the wall in the double-elimination tournament, the Lady Chargers, using their third pitcher of the day and a balanced offense up and down the order, topped Fruita Monument 5-2 at Dave Sanders Field at Clement Park. The win clinched Chatfield a second straight state tournament berth.

“I talked at the beginning of the year that this team has to play as a team. We had JJ (Jessica Jarecki) out. Her arm was killing her. Our catcher’s back was hurting. We took Rachel VanGulick, our starting shortstop, out in the second game. We had a lot of bumps and bruises, and these girls pulled it out,” Chatfield Senior head coach Nicole Janssen said. “When you play as a team, a lot of big things happen."

Chatfield (13-9), which reached the regional finals with a 16-6 win over Greeley West before falling to rival Dakota Ridge 8-2, scored three runs in the third inning and added two insurance runs in the sixth against Fruita Monument. Madison Nedved drove in one run and scored another. Also scoring for the Lady Chargers were Natalie Gaber, Rikki Mijares, Courtney Sexton and Hayley Dunning.

“The second game we were kind of down that we lost to one of our rivals, but the third game we pumped ourselves up. We made each other excited for the third game,” said leadoff batter Gaber, who drove in a run and scored another for Chatfield in the third inning.

Jarecki, before leaving the game in the seventh with arm soreness, set the tone for the Lady Chargers on the mound. The sophomore hurler allowed just one run on three hits. She walked one and struck out eight.

Jarecki conceded there was pressure knowing that a trip to state was hanging in the balance, but she handled it well.

“I knew what was on the line. In order to get to state, I needed to do whatever I had to do,” she said.

Chatfield, the tournament’s 12th seed, will open state on Oct. 18 at Aurora Sports Park against fifth-seeded Legacy. A win could potentially set up a third showdown with Dakota Ridge in the state quarterfinals.