WHEAT RIDGE — A flair for the dramatic has made a pair of early appearances for the defending Class 4A state softball championship.
"It was crazy," Wheat Ridge senior Analece Apodaca said of the Farmers' second straight walk-off victory this season. "We believe with one heartbeat we'll get there. We never stop believing."
Wheat Ridge, ranked No. 2 in CHSAANow.com's preseason poll, needed a four-run rally in the bottom of the seventh inning Thursday on it home field to tie 5A Jeffco's Chatfield at 8-8. For the second straight game junior Ann Marie Torres delivered a walk-off hit to give the Farmers (2-0) a theatrical 9-8 victory.
"We are real lucky to get out of this one," Wheat Ridge coach Marty Stricklett said. "Chatfield is a good ball club over there and they played us well today. We answered the bell in the end."
Torres ripped a double to gap in right-center field in the bottom of the eighth inning that scored senior Jacquelyn Miller from first base. Miller, who opened the inning with a bunt single, was mobbed by teammates after scoring to end the game.
Torres belted a two-run home run in the bottom of the seventh inning Tuesday to beat Chaparral 3-2 in Wheat Ridge's season opener.
Wheat Ridge needed several players to step up to send Thursday's game into extra innings. Apodaca belted a two-run home run in the bottom of the seventh inning to trim Chatfield's lead to 8-6. Senior Mary Sand drove in junior Christian Nelson with a single later in the inning to make it a one-run game. With two outs, sophomore Gabby Loya hit a two-out single to drive in Sand to tie the game.
"(Players) were talking in the seventh inning about finding one heartbeat," Stricklett said. "I told the other coaches that we needed to find team comradery. They found it there in the seventh."
Senior Erin Dalton also put a smile on her coach's face. After having Torres and sophomore Riley Scott pitch during the first four innings, Stricklett put Dalton on the hill with one out in the fifth inning. Dalton gave up a RBI double to the first batter she faced — Chatfield freshman Ali Van Gulick — that put the Chargers (1-2) up 8-4. However, Dalton retired 11 of 13 batters to finish the game and get the win.
"I'm working for my team," said Dalton, who had a 3-0 pitching record last season. "They needed me there (pitching) today. I stepped in and did what I could."
Chatfield junior Jessica Jarecki took the loss on the mound. She deserved a much better fate after pitching a complete-game and having her biggest offensive game of her prep career. Jarecki was 2-for-3 from the plate with a pair of home runs and six RBIs.
Jarecki was really only touched up in the Farmers' potent offense with the four-run third and seventh innings.
"Wheat Ridge is a great hitting team. I definitely was feeling the pressure," Jarecki said about pitching in the seventh inning with a four-run lead. "We'll look at the positives from this. We'll learn from it."
Chatfield hits the road against Mountain Vista next week on Aug. 28 before taking part in the Erie Festival of Champions. The Farmers will also be in Erie for the tournament (Aug. 29 and 30) that features some of the top teams in Colorado and a few powerhouses from Oklahoma.
Wheat Ridge's next game will be perhaps the most anticipated non-league game this softball season pitting the defending 5A and 4A state champions. The Farmers travel to Legacy High School on Tuesday, Aug. 26, to face the defending 5A state champion Lightning. First pitch is scheduled for 4:30 p.m.
"We are excited for it," Dalton said of the game against Legacy. "Every team we play is new competition."