AURORA – As Rocky Ford’s softball team reveled in the moment Saturday afternoon, Meloneers coach JC Carrica reflected on what the team had just accomplished.
Rocky Ford’s 5-1 victory over Strasburg in the Class 3A state championship game at Aurora Sports Park gave the program its first softball championship. But more than that, this group became the first girls team from the school to even reach a state title game.
“A little community like Rocky Ford – if you can get that winning tradition somewhere, it’s contagious,” Carrica said. “It will permeate to women’s basketball, women’s cross country, women’s volleyball. You just have to get that first one and give the kids hope and they’ll thrive on that.”
The Meloneers (23-1) certainly thrived during their two-day stint in Aurora. Victories over Meeker and The Academy sent Rocky Ford back into the semifinals for the first time since 2012.
The team escaped a huge bases-loaded, no-out situation in the fourth inning of a tight game Saturday morning in the semifinals against Eaton, sparking an eventual 12-5 victory to set up the showdown against Strasburg – the defending 3A champion that was making its fifth consecutive appearance in the title game.
“We’re the type of program that our kids have really worked hard that everyone’s gunning for us,” Indians coach Michelle Woodard said. “Today we just fell a little short, but I know we’re going to be back here next year.”
Strasburg (21-3) had rallied from a 7-2 deficit in the semifinals to defeat Brush 13-9 behind three home runs and eight RBIs from sophomore Alexis Rayburn. Rocky Ford was the team to take advantage of momentum early though, scoring a first-inning run on an RBI groundout and then adding two more in the second on a single from Chantae Rodriguez.
“You run into a team like Strasburg who has a culture of winning, and Rocky Ford has never had a girls’ team go to state championship, let alone win one,” Carrica said. “Our backs were against the wall. We were just scrapping to get what we could get.
“We got that run early and it gave us the confidence we needed. Plus it gave us a little bit of run support for Selena.”
That would be Meloneers senior Selena Medina, who went the distance against both Eaton and Strasburg. Medina allowed one run on six hits against the Indians, striking out three and not walking a batter.
“After the first inning I knew my team had my back the whole time,” Medina said. “We locked in.”
Strasburg got a run back on an error in the second inning, scoring Ashlyn Richardson, who had doubled. From there Medina and Indians junior Dakota Stotyn were dialed in, though Rocky Ford was able to add a pair of insurance runs on two singles from junior Ashley Jaramillo.
“She’s a crusher,” Carrica said. “They call her ‘Smashley’ instead of Ashley because she hits the line drives so well and comes up so big for us.”
Trailing by four entering the seventh inning, Strasburg got its first two runners on base. Medina and her defense closed the door though, getting a fly out and two pop-ups to end the game.
“We wanted to make a statement back at our school. We wanted to show them that we could do it,” said Jaramillo, who also homered and had three hits against Eaton. “Just because we include girls from other schools, we could take it and we could bond together – just like we all come from the same place.”
Both teams will graduate only two seniors each and will be among the favorites next fall. But for now, the day belonged to Rocky Ford and the players who made the most of its opportunities.
“It’s indescribable. I don’t know what to say,” Medina said. “I have a good team behind me. We’re a family, we’re sisters, and we did it together.”