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Chase is on for Fountain-Fort Carson, other area softball teams
When area softball coaches were asked to list the city’s top high school players, one name kept coming up more than any other: Lauryn Chase.
The Fountain-Fort Carson senior pitcher and outfielder headlines a talented group of Trojans who are looking for 5A glory in 2011 after a 13-9 season last year. Chase, a Gazette first-team All-Area selection in 2010, is regarded by many as the city’s top pitcher, and she does pretty well at the plate as well.
Chase led Fountain-Fort Carson with a .468 average last year while going 7-6 as a starter. Her record was deceptive, as she had the tough task of taking on some elite teams from outside Colorado Springs as part of the Trojans’ challenging nonleague schedule.
Her record also included a 1-0 loss to 4A powerhouse Lewis-Palmer, a state semifinalist with a 21-3 record. Chase, who struck out 67 batters in 80 innings last season, is excited about her senior year after a successful summer playing club ball with the Denver-based Colorado Stars.
“We have a great team this year, and we’re going to be pretty solid,” said Chase, who had a 3.24 ERA last season. “I have a lot of confidence in my team and in myself. We’re determined to be more disciplined as a team, work together more and finish each game strong.”
Trojans coach Ron Wilson will be looking to Chase to lead his squad this season, and he described her as a player who has it all.
“She’s just one of those special athletes who can do just about anything,” Wilson said. “She brings speed, knowledge of the game, a work ethic and a pitching ability, and she can play just about any position and play at the top level. It shows on the field, and when she’s not out there, we’re not quite the same team.”
Wilson has eight varsity players returning for this season, and he’s optimistic about his team’s chances in 2011.
“I think we’re going to be pretty good again, and we’ll be real competitive in the Metro,” Wilson said. “We like to play our nonleague games up in Denver, because the teams tend to be a little bit better. We should be fairly deep.”
Standing in the way of a league title will be Liberty, which was 20-2 last year and swept its two games with Fountain-Fort Carson in late September. Wilson and Chase will be eager to get another crack at the Lancers on Sept. 27.
“I’m excited to play against them,” Chase said. “I know some of their players because I’ve played against them in club ball, and that’s the game we’re most interested in this season. They’re a really good team, and it’s going to be good competition.”
Strong-arming the competition
No position in any sport carries as much importance as a pitcher in softball; so these could be the key players to the season for area teams:
Cora Buechner, Falcon, junior
Pitched 79 of the team’s 84 innings as a sophomore, going 13-2 with 72 strikeouts and a 2.48 ERA. Also batted .574 with team-highs in walks and runs scored.
Lauryn Chase, Fountain-Fort Carson, senior
Managed a 7-6 record with a 3.24 ERA last year as the Trojans faced a nonconference schedule loaded with some of the state’s best.
Meg Gricius, Air Academy, senior
Struck out 80 in just 59 innings last year, going 8-3 with a 2.37 ERA. Also led the team in batting average (.458), runs and hits.
Mariah Trujillo, Liberty, senior
Posted an 8-1 record with a 1.70 ERA and posted a victory in the playoffs; only loss came in one-run setback to state runner-up D’Evelyn
TOP PLAYERS TO WATCH
Lauren Shanks, senior, OF, Widefield
Hit .519 with 25 extra-base hits, including eight homers, to garner a spot on the Gazette’s first-team All-Area team.
Dani Gonzales, senior, C, Palmer
A three-time first-team all-conference selection, Gonzales was a Gazette All-Area pick in 2010 after batting .412 with 21 runs, 14 RBIs and throwing out 11 of 17 base runners.
Allison Anderson, junior, P/1B/SS, Vista Ridge
The Metro League Plains Division Player of the Year and Denver Post all-state honorable mention in 2010, Anderson batted .674 with 27 runs and 26 RBIs.
Kristen Bagely, senior, 2B, Liberty
Led her team with a .414 batting average, a .638 slugging percentage and an on-base percentage of .486. She had nine doubles and 10 RBIs and posted a 97.6-percent fielding percentage at second base.
Brooklyne Harbert, junior, OF, Fountain-Fort Carson
A 5A Metro first-team selection last year, Harbert hit .434, scored 32 runs, had 13 extra-base hits and 25 RBIs while striking out just twice in 83 at-bats.
Others: Melanie Farmer, Lewis-Palmer; Kelly Johnson, Air Academy; Danielle Anderson, Vista Ridge; Danielle Johnson, Fountain-Fort Carson; Samantha Archuleta, Palmer; Cassie Simenson, Rampart; Shea Graham, Cheyenne Mountain; Taylor Cobb, Cheyenne Mountain.
TEAM MOST LIKELY TO CONTEND AT STATE
With 11 seniors and fresh off a 20-2 season that included its sixth straight 5A Metro League championship, Liberty should be a force again this season. The Lancers were bounced from the state tournament in the first round by Loveland in an upset that snapped a nine-game winning streak, leaving a sour taste in their mouths and giving them a sense of unfinished business. Liberty has a loaded lineup with nine hitters who batted better than .300 last season, and Mariah Trujillo (8-1) and Samantha Hunt (4-0) give them a potent 1-2 punch in the pitcher’s circle.
BUT DON’T FORGET
Three other area teams qualified for state last year: Cheyenne Mountain (13-10), Mesa Ridge (14-9) and Lewis-Palmer (21-3). Lewis-Palmer advanced the deepest, winning two games at the state tournament to earn a spot in the semifinals. The Rangers lost a 1-0 heartbreaker against eventual state runner-up D’Evelyn in the semis and face a rebuilding year after losing four key seniors.
In addition, area coaches have pointed to Falcon (15-6), Widefield (13-9) and Discovery Canyon (11-8) to contend in the highly competitive 4A ranks this season, while Fountain-Fort Carson (13-9) is expected to have its say in 5A.
When looking at the area’s 3A teams, Florence is the first school that stands out. The Huskies are coming off a 16-6 season that included a first-round win at the state tournament. Florence was eliminated in the second round by eventual runner-up Berthoud and should be favored to repeat as Tri-Peaks league champion. The Huskies will have to contend with La Junta and Lamar, but St. Mary’s — which returns its top five hitters and eight of 10 starters — should improve on its 10-10 record from a year ago and challenge for a league title as well.
Cheyenne Mountain loses six key seniors from a year ago, but coach Mike Simon believes his squad can reload with a pair of freshmen — Hayley Cobb and Bridget Gleason — who could make an instant impact.
Wasson, which went 1-17 last year, hasn’t enjoyed much recent success in the sport, but senior Sara Duszynski, a catcher and infielder, figures to be a key addition after moving in from South Carolina.
Aug. 30—Fountain-Fort Carson at Lewis-Palmer, 4 p.m.
Sept. 8—Widefield at Cheyenne Mountain, 4:30 p.m.
Sept. 10—Lewis-Palmer at Mesa Ridge, 2 p.m.
Sept. 15—Lewis-Palmer at Cheyenne Mountain, 4:30 p.m.
Sept. 27—Fountain-Fort Carson at Liberty, 4 p.m.
Sept. 29—Cheyenne Mountain at Mesa Ridge, 4 p.m.
Oct. 15—4A/5A regional tournaments
Oct. 21-22—State Tournament, Aurora Sports Park
GAZETTE PRESEASON AREA RANKINGS
2. Fountain-Fort Carson
2. St. Mary’s
Area softball players spend summer on diamond to hone skills
Most high school kids look to summer as a time to relax and rest after a busy school year, but for area softball players, it was a time to develop their skills.
Summer softball leagues were packed with high school stars from across the city, with players spending more time on the diamond than at the mall. They played in dozens of games, gaining valuable at-bats and innings of experience that will serve them well.
“The more reps they get, the better they’re going to be,” Widefield coach Gary Foltz said. “It’s pretty much like every other sport, with the need to be specialized. If you want to stand out and do something well, you’ve got to pretty much do it year-round. It’s definitely helped my program.”
A full summer schedule also gives players momentum going forward so they hit their high school seasons running strong.
“The girls roll into high school with 60, 70, 80 games under their belts, so they’re not losing any momentum,” said John Henry of the Colorado Springs Thunder club. “They’re rolling right into the high school season. So, they’re ready to go.”
Many of the city’s top high school talent was on display in a trio of club leagues this summer. For Widefield standout Lauren Shanks, playing in the Thunder league gave her a chance to further hone her skills as her final high school softball season begins.
“I learned a lot and feel like I’m a better player now,” said Fountain-Fort Carson’s Lauryn Chase, who played nearly 100 club games this summer. “You’re able to play a lot of games and get some great experience, and we played all over the country.”
Henry has seen a considerable amount of growth in the city’s club programs — including with other leagues like Quicksilver and Aquasox — in the decade he has been associated with the Thunder.
“Ten years ago, maybe half of the high school rosters would be playing club ball, and now it’s 90 percent or better,” Henry said. “There’s been a lot of growth in Colorado Springs, and a lot of smaller clubs have popped up. The participation is definitely growing. It’s been great to see.”
Not only has club softball helped players develop, but it, in turn, has improved the strength of high school softball in Colorado Springs. More teams are qualifying for the state tournament and going deeper in the regionals.
“One of the things we try to accomplish together is to help the Colorado Springs area perform better at state at the high school level,” Henry said. “That’s a collective goal. Hopefully, we can build on it every year and do better than the year before.”