Lady Spartans best Mead in thrilling, walk-off fashion
By Dan Karpiel
Even though they all count the same in the standings, some wins mean a little more than others.
The Berthoud High School softball team got one of those wins Saturday at Bein Field as they beat Tri-Valley Conference (TVC) rival Mead by a 6-5 final in extra innings. After relinquishing a 5-2 lead in the top of the seventh frame, Berthoud rallied in the bottom of the eighth, scoring the winning run to walk off with the critical conference win.
“Yes I do,” Berthoud Head Coach Buddy Kouns said, when asked if he thinks the win means a little more given the way the game played out. “I think our kids really came together. They had each other’s back, and that’s what I’m really proud of, they gutted it out.”
Sarah Jorissen, who scored the winning run and pitched a complete game, agreed. As the senior said, “Yeah, like definitely during the game it feels like, this is like life-and-death honestly, you just have to put all your heart in it, and we all have each other’s backs which makes it a lot more comfortable for everyone, and just go leave it all out on the field.”
Often thought of as a game of hitting, pitching and base-running, defense is an equally-important aspect of softball, and it was fielding, good and bad and by both teams, that told the story of Saturday’s game.
Holding onto a 2-0 lead in the top of the fifth, Berthoud catcher Mandi Laib made a terrific throw to Addi Spears at shortstop to cut down a would-be base-stealer and record the second out of the frame.
Mead began the next inning with four of their first five batters recording base hits, yet Berthoud’s gloves flashed gold again, this time at the hot-corner. With one run already in and runners on first and second, third baseman Ashlynn Balliet fielded a sharp ground ball, tagged third for one out and fired a perfect strike across the diamond to first-baseman Carley Rafferty to complete the double-play.
Yet it was not all textbook defense from the Lady Spartans. Two costly errors coupled with two base hits in the top of the seventh allowed Mead to score three runs and knot the game at 5-5. With runners on first and second and the momentum in Mead’s favor, Jorissen leapt up to grab a line drive, snaring the ball to record the final out to preserve the tie score.
Jorissen did not let the two errors that tied the game to faze her, saying after the game, “No, it doesn’t change my focus. It is frustrating but, like I said, I have their backs; they have mine; we just have to shake it. Errors are going to happen and when they do we just have to flush them out and keep playing.” The senior worked a three-up, three-down eighth and led off the bottom of the frame with a hard-hit single to left field.
With Jorissen on first, Spears was asked to lay down a bunt – despite having doubled in each of her previous three plate appearances – and executed it ideally. While the ball was fielded cleanly, a rushed throw to first to attempt to get the speedy Berthoud shortstop sailed high, allowing Jorissen to cruise home for the winning run.
Twice in the game the Mead coaching staff elected to intentionally walk Balliet – not a bad idea on the surface, the junior leads the TVC with six homeruns – but both times four-hole hitter Natalie Fischer made the Lady Mavericks pay. After the first free pass Balliet was given, Fischer singled to right field, driving in Spears to give Berthoud a 2-0 lead. In the fifth Mead again elected to walk Balliet, and all Fischer did was lace a double into the outfield, again scoring Spears and putting the Lady Spartans up 5-2.
“Our league knows who Ash is. Our league doesn’t know who Natalie is yet, and they’re going to find out,” Kouns said of Fischer. “She’s capitalized on it; she drove in two runs today; she’s taking advantage of it.”
Fresh off their thrilling win over Mead, Berthoud went down to Longmont on Tuesday afternoon and spanked Skyline, winning by a 21-1 final in a three-inning, mercy-rule-shortened contest. Berthoud (10-6, 4-3 TVC) will continue their run of conference road games in Erie and Frederick on Sept. 20 and 24, respectively. The Lady Spartans return home for a matchup with Roosevelt on Sept. 25.
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