Berthoud softball aims for a return to state

By Dan Karpiel

The Surveyor

It’s all about setting the goals high. As well it should be for the Berthoud High School (BHS) softball team, given the program’s long history of being one of the best in the state.

The goal for the 2019 season, in the words of Head Coach Buddy Kouns, will be to get to the state tournament in Aurora. “It’s get to Aurora, it has to be, we need to get to Aurora,” Kouns said as his team practiced on a sweltering Monday afternoon at ballfields adjacent the school.

Photo by Melanie Johnson –
Berthoud’s Ashlynn Balliet rounding the bases at the state tournament last season. Balliet, one of the most feared hitters in the state, returns for her senior season on a Berthoud softball squad that is aiming for a return to the postseason.

Berthoud battled their way through the ultra-tough 4A Tri-Valley Conference last season, won the regional championship in dominating fashion and advanced all the way to the state final four, losing by a razor-thin 2-0 margin in the semi-finals. From that squad Berthoud retains third baseman Ashlynn Balliet, centerfielder Jordan Schachterle, and pitcher Natalie Fischer, all seniors. Berthoud did, however, lose seven seniors to graduation, six of whom were starters and five who are now playing collegiately.

“It’s going to look a little bit different than it has the last few years, but I think we’re really going to surprise some people,” Kouns said. “I’m really excited about it. We’re going to see which of these kids are going to step up.”

Berthoud will have a new ace in the circle this season in Fischer, who didn’t pitch last year but raked at the plate, hitting an astounding .507 and driving in a team-high 35 runs. Fischer explained she is not one bit nervous and is entirely excited about filling the shoes left by All-State senior Sarah Jorissen.

“We have a bunch of new people this year, so it will be an adjustment, but I’m just going to go in there. I trust them; I’ll throw and they’ll get the outs,” Fischer said, and added she expected to hit “just as well if not better” than last season and pitching will not detract one iota from her ability to contribute at a high level offensively.

Kouns expressed enormous confidence in using Fischer as the team’s primary pitcher, saying, “Natalie has some really good movement and I think she’s going to be great. Her adjustment is going to be able to get into that circle and have us rely on her, because we really are going to rely on her.”

When Fischer needs a few innings of rest, Kouns will turn to Balliet to handle some occasional pitching duties. The fifth-year head coach explained he discovered Balliet’s ability to pitch during an inter-squad scrimmage a week ago and, despite having not pitched since she was 8 years old, Kouns said Balliet will get occasional innings in the circle.

Balliet, who has started the last three seasons at third base and earned All-State honors the last two years, is one of the most feared and accomplished hitters in the state. In her junior year she hit .494 with 28 RBI and a team-best eight homeruns and was intentionally walked an incredible 17 times.

“I will do anything for the team’s success. If they need me to pitch a few innings I’ll go out there. It may not be my favorite place, but the team comes first,” Balliet said with a chuckle.

Something the team’s seniors all remarked on was establishing a positive attitude and building with the team-first concept in mind. As Schachterle put it, “I think a lot of people think we’re going to struggle because we lost so many girls, but I feel like if we stay confident the whole season and play like we know we can, we will win the games we should win. I think we will be just fine. We need to go in with the mentality that it’s a brand-new team and a brand-new season and anything can happen.”

“I think we just need to go in with a positive attitude that this is a brand new team,” Balliet added. “It’s going to be a build year, building our skills, building what we need to work on as a team and as individuals, and I think we’re going to have a good year.”

Kouns is excited for the return of Rhylee Bebo, who missed last year with an injury, as well as to watch the development of sisters Frankie and Gracie Flores, both of whom appear to have extremely bright futures.

Kouns admitted he does expect an adjustment period with so many new players in key roles up and down the lineup, but explained he sees the team building for a postseason run. Said Kouns, “I think we’re going to be a work in progress. It’s good to have 23 games because I think we will have some growing pains early, but I think we can build, and if we’re rolling at regionals, that’s where we want to go.”

Berthoud will open the 2019 season on the road against Thompson Valley on Monday, Aug. 26. Berthoud’s home opener comes on Sept. 3 when they will welcome Loveland to Bein Field in Berthoud.