Lady Spartans reach state final four

Photo by Tiffany Rafferty – Berthoud’s Sophie Supernor swings at a pitch at the state semi-final game against Mountain View last Saturday at the Aurora Sports Park. Supernor came up big the day prior with a homerun that helped propel the Lady Spartans to the state final-four, the best showing for Berthoud since 2011.
 

By Dan Karpiel

The Surveyor

Steven Spielberg could not have written a script so fine.

Making a return to the state softball championships last Friday at Aurora Sports Park, the Berthoud High School (BHS) softball team earned a pair of wins that reminded everyone why they play, watch and follow sports.

The Lady Spartans rallied from a 9-1 deficit in the opening-round game, scoring 10 runs in the final two innings to earn an 11-9 win over Pueblo West. Later in the day Berthoud rode the momentum from their come-from-behind victory to knock out No. 1-seed Pueblo County by a 4-2 final. Both were games for the ages, featuring a little bit of everything, and the two wins propelled Berthoud to state final-four, the furthest the team – long one of the most consistently-successful programs at BHS – has advanced since 2011.

“That victory, that showed more heart than any team I’ve ever coached,” Berthoud Head Coach Buddy Kouns said after the win over Pueblo West. “To be able to do that, that’s more heart than any team I’ve ever been associated with. You can’t say any more than that; it was all heart.”

Trailing 9-1 entering the bottom half of the fifth inning against West, first baseman and eight-hole hitter Carly Rafferty got the rally started with a homerun; the round-tripper, the senior’s second in as many games, brought Berthoud’s bats to life. A double from Jordan Schachterle and singles from Ashlynn Balliet and Sarah Jorissen followed. Addi Spears reached on a fielder’s choice and Natalie Fischer cleared the bases with a single. After the second homerun of the inning, this one off the bat of senior catcher Mandi Laib, the Lady Spartans had stolen all the momentum in a game whose scoreboard now read 9-7 in West’s favor.

“You could feel energy coming from the girls. They were encouraging each other; they kept saying, ‘we still have nine more outs, anything can happen,’” Kouns said.

Schachterle made an incredible read and subsequent catch on a long fly ball to center field that kept the bases clear in the top of the sixth, helping to preserve Berthoud’s two-run deficit. The junior walked to lead off the home half of the frame and advanced on Balliet’s third single of the game. Jorissen doubled to score Schachterle and came home along with Balliet when Spears cleared the bases with a double to put Berthoud ahead for good, 10-9.

“Us seniors, we show our heart as much as we can, and I think the younger girls see it and when we start hitting the ball it’s contagious. Everyone starts hitting, that’s what happens,” Spears said as she caught her breath after the thrilling win. “Sarah hit a homerun, Carly hit a homerun, Mandi hit a homerun … we all wanted it so bad and we made it go our way.”

Kouns explained he did not want to make any changes, even when trailing by eight runs, and told the team not to make any adjustments to their approach, believing things would work themselves out. “We told them they were hitting the ball hard and to keep doing the same thing they were doing and it would find some holes, because early in the game they were hitting the ball hard,” he said.

The approach jived with the team, as Spears remarked, “We all had good, solid hits in the beginning of the game. They just went straight to people. I kept my approach, and I think that’s what happened with everyone else. They just all kept their approach and knew it was going to go somewhere, and I think that helped out a lot.”

With only about 90 minutes before they took the field for the quarter-final matchup with top-seeded Pueblo County, Berthoud did not lose one iota of the momentum and confidence they picked up in the win over West. The two teams traded zeros for the first three innings of the contest, with only four base hits combined. Fischer doubled to lead off the fourth and came home to break the scoreless tie when Sophie Supernor reached on a County fielding error. The Lady Spartans added two more in the fifth when Jorissen, who notched a two-out single to get things going, came home on a Spears double. Spears scored on a Fischer single the next at bat to put Berthoud up 3-zip, and a homerun from Supernor in the top of the sixth gave Berthoud an insurance run.

Jorissen was masterful for Berthoud inside the circle, keeping County hitters off balance and induced 14 ground-ball outs in seven innings of work. The senior wiggled out of a jam in the bottom of the fifth when, after surrendering back-to-back hits, got Samantha Cordo to hit a groundball to Spears at short who quickly fired to Rafferty at first for the out. Yet Rafferty saw Desiree Perales well away from second base and made a savvy throw to Stephanie Haberkon, who then chased down Perales to secure the third out and end the frame.

Then came Saturday morning, and with it a date in the semi-finals with defending 4A champion Mountain View.

In an interesting, and frankly, cruel (from Berthoud’s perspective) twist of softball irony, all those hard-hit and well-hit balls, a baker’s dozen by one count, never ended up finding the holes in the defense they did the day prior. Berthoud finished with only three base hits and, while Jorissen was her usual dominant self inside the circle – allowing only one earned run on four hits – Berthoud was kept out of the title game, losing by a 2-0 final tally.

Haberkon, Jorissen, Laib, Rafferty, Spears and Supernor will all be lost to graduation but left an indelible mark on the storied BHS softball program. Jorissen slashed .536/.573/.936 with 23 RBI and 23 extra-base hits (including seven homeruns) this season while also posting a 2.58 ERA with 14 wins and 116 strikeouts, an All-State-caliber effort. In her three seasons as Berthoud’s ace, Jorissen won 37 games, posted a 2.98 ERA, tallied 271 strikeouts and was charged with only six fielding errors in 241 total chances. When coupled with a .436 career batting average and OPS of 1.151, she has to be considered one of the program’s all-time greats.

Balliet, who hit .500 with a team-high eight homeruns, will return in 2019. Along with Schachterle, Fischer and Ellie Yuska, the quartet will comprise the core of the expected varsity squad.

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