Berthoud Weekly Surveyor | Covering all the angles in the Garden Spot

Lady Spartans off to a hot start

September 06, 2019 | Softball

By Dan Karpiel

The Surveyor

There is no such thing as a good loss, especially when the game was so very winnable, but in falling by a 1-0 final to 5A Loveland on Tuesday afternoon in their home opener at Bein Field in Berthoud, the Berthoud High softball team learned they can play with any team in the state.

In the circle for Loveland was a pitcher who needs no introduction – Laruen Krings, the 2018 Gatorade Player of the Year who has signed to play collegiately at Southeastern Conference powerhouse Missouri. Berthoud knew who they were facing and came ready to play. And, perhaps most impressively, in the circle was Berthoud’s ace, Natalie Fischer, who matched Krings pitch for pitch.

Photo by Sarah BussardBerthoud’s Gracie Flores at the plate in Tuesday afternoon’s game against Loveland. The Lady Spartans are off to a hot start to the 2019 season, and Flores’ play has been a major factor in Berthoud’s three wins.

Loveland scratched out their lone run of the game in the top half of the sixth frame when three consecutive base hits brought Elana Gerhard, who singled to lead off the inning, home to put the first and last run on the board.

Berthoud had a few opportunities to break the scoreless jam, the first coming in the home half of first inning when Gracie Flores led off the game with a single and stole second base but was stranded in scoring position when Krings fanned the next three Berthoud batters. In the fourth inning, senior Ashlynn Balliet earned a walk and advanced to second off a Fischer single. Both were left on base, however, as Krings once again retired the side with back-to-back strikeouts. Finally, in the fifth inning, Jordan Schachterle worked a one-out walk and advanced on a single from Carly Fischer but was thrown out at third when Flores hit a fly-ball single to shallow left-center field.

After the game Flores explained she altered her approach at the plate in facing Krings, who throws in the 70 mph range, almost unheard of in high school softball. Said Flores, “So usually I load, and I had to cut that out to get my timing there, and I knew that if I had any extra movement coming back I wouldn’t have enough time (to catch up to the pitch) so I just tried to keep my swing short.” The freshman’s two hits were half of Berthoud’s total against Krings.

It was the missed opportunities that most bothered Berthoud Head Coach Buddy Kouns. “It makes it a tougher pill to swallow when you lose 1-0 and you look back at our opportunities,” Kouns said, “We had an opportunity there in the first inning and we had an opportunity there in the fifth, and both of those times, against a pitcher like that, you’ve got to take advantage of those because you don’t get too many. We created the opportunity and we have to be able to somehow cash in on those opportunities in a close game like that. It stings a little bit more because it was so close.”

Despite coming up just a hair short against a 5A powerhouse, Kouns was impressed with the performance of Fischer inside the circle. “Natalie doesn’t throw with the velocity the last two girls we’ve had, she doesn’t throw as hard as Sarah (Jorissen), she doesn’t throw as hard as Taylor (Armitage), but Natalie, she is really crafty. She’s probably the best at locating of the three of them. If we can pitch like we pitched today, I really like where we are,” Kouns said of his ace. 

Even with the loss, Berthoud has been playing splendidly in the early throes of the season. Last week the Lady Spartans exacted some revenge for their defeat in state semi-finals last year as they spanked Mountain View by a 16-5 in part thanks to five hits, including a homerun, from Balliet. Over the weekend Berthoud played in the prestigious Erie Tournament of Champions where they split their two games, handily defeating Fruita Monument 11-6 and falling by a close 8-5 final to Oklahoma-based Fairland High School.

The way the team has played against some very stout competition to begin the year comes as no to surprise to Kouns, who when asked if he was surprised by the results five games in said, “No not really. This group has got a heart, they’ll get after it, and we do every year, but this group has got a little more drive.”

Furthermore, Kouns said this is only the beginning, and he sees a team that will improve as the weeks progress through the season. “I think we’re going to get better. That’s why I’m encouraged. We play better late, we always have, and we have room to grow here. It’s encouraging that we’re where we are right now, because with a little bit of growth and a little bit of seasoning, we’re going to be hard to beat.”

Berthoud (3-2) will play four games on Friday and Saturday in their annual Spartan Invitational tournament at the Barnes Complex in Loveland.

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