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Fountain-Fort Carson tops Palmer, but tiebreaker looks to give Terrors postseason berth
FOUNTAIN - Fountain-Fort Carson’s softball team came virtually out of nowhere and in doing so has thrown the 5A Metro into a mess with one game remaining.
However, it doesn’t look their season-long comeback will be quite enough.
The Trojans, who lost seven of their first 10, overcame an early three-run deficit and broke out of a bases-loaded jam at the end of a 9-7 victory over Palmer on Thursday.
In doing so, Fountain-Fort Carson (9-8, 3-1 5A Metro) prevented the Terrors (15-4, 4-1) from clinching a league title.
But it’s more complicated than that. The Trojans also moved into what could become a three-way tie with Palmer and Pine Creek (16-3, 4-1). If Fountain-Fort Carson can top Rampart in a makeup game Friday, then the league will go to tiebreakers – and the team that finishes third will see its season end as the league has only two postseason qualifiers.
The No. 1 tiebreaker is head-to-head, which doesn’t work because the teams are all 1-1 against each other. The next tiebreaker is runs allowed against higher-seeded teams, including teams with which a school is tied.
In games against Palmer and Pine Creek, Fountain-Fort Carson allowed 16 runs. Pine Creek allowed 10 against Fountain-Fort Carson and Palmer and would take the top seed out of the league, while Palmer would be second after allowing 12 runs in those games.
However, if Fountain-Fort Carson loses to Rampart, it leaves just Palmer and Pine Creek tied with one league loss and Palmer would win the league title in the head-to-head tiebreaker.
This would have been far less tricky had Fountain-Fort Carson not displayed the same fight when facing an early 4-1 deficit Thursday that it has shown throughout the season under first-year coach Jennifer Daigneault.
“People kind of forgot about them because they played a tough schedule,” Palmer coach Stephen DeFelice said. “But they are tough.”
As the southernmost 5A school in the state, the Trojans had difficulty finding nonconference opponents to fill the early part of their schedule in this, the first year the 5A Metro did not play a full two-game round robin.
As a result, Fountain-Fort Carson played in tournaments in the Denver area on back-to-back weekends, squeezing more than half of its schedule into an eight-day window. It was during that time that two players – Amanda Jacques and Mackenzie Erickson – suffered concussions in a collision and had to sit out that entire stretch. They were the team’s Nos. 2 and 3 pitchers, so senior ace Brooklyne Harbert was forced to pitch all 10 tournament games.
“We had all those games close together, then we didn’t have any games for a while. Then when we did start to have consistent games, they were getting canceled because of weather,” Daigneault said. “So it’s been a rough season schedule-wise.”
But the Trojans, who have played just five times in the past 26 days, have won six of seven to climb back into the league race and set up what was a thriller against Palmer – as no one at the time knew the specifics of the looming tiebreaker.
“Sometimes I lose my breath because I’m trying to focus so hard,” said Harbert, who had a pair of hits and struck out Ariel Armijo to end Palmer’s threat in the seventh. “And then when I pitch I hold my breath anyway, so it makes me breathe even heavier. It was nerve-wracking, for sure.”
Freshman Braylee Harbert helped her sister by driving in three runs, including two on a double during the Trojans’ five-run third-inning that was aided by two dropped fly balls.
“There were a couple of plays I’d certainly like to have back,” DeFelice said. “But you know what, I’d never like to lay it off on one player or one play. It’s a team. Hopefully we have another game to play next week.”
According to the tiebreakers as they were interpreted by Fountain-Fort Carson athletic director Kelley Eichman, the Terrors don’t have to worry about that and a season in which they’ve already set a school record with 15 victories will continue.