Mistakes doom Berthoud softball at state tourney

By Dan Karpiel
The Surveyor

In the post-season the margin for error is tiny. And while the Berthoud High School (BHS) softball team gave No. 2-seed Mullen all they could handle in the opening round of the state softball tournament, a few mistakes proved costly as Berthoud fell by a 7-6 final.

Four fielding errors by Berthoud led to four unearned runs while two attempted squeeze plays failed, thanks to near-perfect execution by Mullen and, on the second squeeze bunt in the top of the sixth inning, an iffy ruling by the home plate umpire.

Asked after the game what tipped the balance in Mullen’s favor in a very closely-contested game, Berthoud Head Coach Buddy Kouns said, “Their execution on our two squeezes, they executed those perfectly. We gave that team everything they could handle and, like I told the girls, I’m disappointed for them, I’m not disappointed in them. They have a lot to be proud of.”

Berthoud struck first, pushing three runs across the plate in the top of the third inning. It could have been four runs, however, but Mullen third-baseman Jessica Hafey threw out Berthoud’s Tristan Pope, who doubled to lead off the frame, at home plate on a squeeze bunt from Delany Fouts. Fouts reached base on the fielder’s choice and came around to score when Sarah Jorissen doubled in the next at bat. Jorissen would cross home plate on the first of two homers from standout freshman Ashlynn Balliet.

Mullen responded in the bottom half of the third after an error and walk put two on base for Natalie Archuleta, who homered to knot the game at three-all. Another fielding error by Berthoud in the fourth inning was followed by a pair of singles that allowed two Lady Mustangs to come home, giving Mullen a 5-4 lead.

The Lady Spartans were able to tie the game at five in the top of the sixth when Morgan Schachterle scored on an Addie Spears double and Mullen fielding error. Spears was thrown out on a very close play at home plate on Berthoud’s second squeeze bunt attempt of the afternoon. Fouts, who reached on the fielder’s choice, advanced to scoring position after stealing second but was stranded when Mullen pitcher Allie Reynolds struck out Jorissen for the third and final out of the frame.

Balliet hit her second homerun of the game to lead off the seventh inning, tying the game at six, but Reynolds got the next three Lady Spartans out, giving her team the chance to win the game in walk-off fashion. After Jorissen struck out Archuleta to lead off the bottom of the seventh, Caley McKee legged out a single to put the winning run on base. A ground ball up the middle was fielded cleanly by Jorissen who, when attempting to throw to second base to begin a double-play attempt, over-threw Spears, giving Mullen a two-on, one-out situation. McKee scored the winning run on the next at bat when Emma DiGiacomo-Zahller singled to left-center.

Despite the disappointing end to the season, Berthoud surprised many outside observers by making their second-straight appearance in the state tourney. Faced with having to replace five seniors − two of whom were All-State honorees in 2015 − a young core led by Jorissen, Spears and Balliet helped the Lady Spartans maintain their place as a softball powerhouse. Berthoud will have some big shoes to fill as senior catcher Hannah Langer will be taking her considerable talents to Hastings College next fall. The four-year starter, whose leadership contributions Kouns described as “invaluable,” led Berthoud with a .429 batting average in 2016.

“I thought we did an amazing job this year,” Balliet said. “It didn’t end how we wanted but coming in as a 15 seed and giving a number-two seed all they could handle shows that rankings don’t really mean anything, the heart of the players will show on the field.”