Spartans Drop State Title Game to Finish Second
By Dan Karpiel
The Berthoud Spartans softball team capped off a stellar season with a second-place finish in the 3A state tournament held on Friday and Saturday at the Aurora Sports Complex. The Spartans rolled through the first two rounds of the state tourney on Friday by a combined a score of 31-0. Berthoud, the number one seed in the 3A state bracket, spanked sixteen seed Rifle by a score of 20-0 and then pummeled eight seed Florence 11-0. The crushing victories gave the Spartans confidence as they took the field Saturday morning for Colorado’s final day of high school softball.
On Saturday, the Spartans found themselves in the state final four where they would face much stiffer competition. Berthoud battled back from a 4-0 deficit to win 7-6 against five seed Platte Valley but ultimately came up short against seven seed Valley in the State Title game by a score of 9-5. Ultimately it was one bad inning, the fourth inning to be precise, which cost Berthoud the title. Even with the loss, the Spartans held their heads high and were very proud of their 20-5 season record and state runner-up finish.
“They fought hard and they never gave up, I’m proud of them,” Coach Dick Klocek said after the championship game. Berthoud High Athletic Director Mark Avery echoed Coach Klocek’s comments saying, “State runners-up is a tremendous accomplishment … and we’re proud as can be of this team.”
The two blowout wins on Friday showcased Berthoud’s ability to dominate their opponents whereas Saturday’s games demonstrated the resiliency and mental toughness the Spartans possess. In the semifinal contest versus Platte Valley, the Broncos took a 3-0 lead in the first inning and extended it to 4-0 by the end of third. However, Berthoud proved able to rally. A RBI single from sophomore Morgan Thonoff scored senior Danielle Wikre, who had doubled the prior at-bat, to make it a 4-1 game. In the fifth inning the Spartan offense took off, scoring four runs and taking a 5-4 lead. Megan McGinn got things started by working a walk, junior Rachel Carter and sophomore Shelby Miller reached base on errors and back-to-back RBI doubles by junior Kaitlyn Bending and sophomore Danielle Wikre gave the Spartans their first lead of the game.
Platte Valley retook the lead on a two-run homer in the fifth inning but that wasn’t enough to keep Berthoud down. The Spartans rallied once again and took the lead back for good in the top of seventh. A Bending sacrifice fly scored Prescott to tie the contest at six. Sophomore pitcher Victoria Puchino slapped a double into the outfield, scoring Wikre and giving the Spartans a 7-6 lead. Puchino and the Berthoud defense kept Platte Valley off the board in the bottom of the seventh and in doing so earned a spot in the state title game.
In the championship game the Berthoud Spartans faced off with the Valley Vikings from Gilcrest. Valley, the seven seed, had beaten ten seed Holyoke, two seed Holy Family and three seed Rocky Ford to advance to the title game. After jumping out to a 2-1 lead, the wheels unfortunately came off for Berthoud in the top of the fourth inning. Valley scored whopping seven runs in the frame thanks to five doubles and three singles. When asked after the game if Valley’s seven-run fourth took a mental toll on the Spartans, Coach Klocek said, “no, I don’t think so, (Valley) just hit the ball real well.”
The rough fourth inning did not appear to negatively affect the Spartans. Sophomore pitcher Victoria Puchino, who had already thrown six and two-thirds innings in the semifinal game against Platte Valley, worked one-two-three innings in both in the fifth and sixth.
Even after falling behind Valley 8-2 after three innings, the Spartans continued to battle. Senior third baseman Danielle Wikre capped off her high softball career in impressive fashion, belting two homers in the title game. Wikre finished the day five-for-seven with two homeruns, two doubles, a single and three RBIs. Prescott and Bending would score Berthoud’s final two runs of the game, and the season, in the bottom of the seventh to make the final score 9-5 in favor of the Vikings.
As the title game ended the large contingent of Berthoud fans loudly applauded the effort and resiliency displayed by Spartan players and coaches. The future appears bright for Spartan softball, as the state runner-up team will be losing only three seniors, McGinn, Wikre and outfielder Mara Gwin. “You feel hard for them” Avery said speaking of the three Spartan seniors but added, “the future is bright, Berthoud softball is here and it’s going to be here for a while.”
Photos by Dan Karpiel
Stats for Berthoud – Platte Valley
Stats for Berthoud – Valley