In a little more than a month, 88 softball teams around the state will enter into a one-day marathon to reach Aurora Sports Park less than a week later.
Difficult as it may be to comprehend, the midway point of the 2018 season is upon us, and with it comes the conclusion to most non-league competition. Over the next four weeks, teams will engage in league battles two to three times a week in the bid to land a coveted spot in regional tournaments.
Defending Class 3A state champion Strasburg
– which has reached the title game six years running – played four non-league games last week. The Indians went 2-2 in a tournament at Berthoud, competing against 4A competition. Three of the team's four losses have come to 4A programs.
"I think that's why I create the schedule we have," Strasburg coach Michelle Woodard said. "I want us to be challenged early enough to see what we can handle and to persevere with a tough game. This weekend we played all 4A schools, and it didn't go quite the way we wanted it to, but they didn't quit. That's a key for seeing what we're all about."
Strasburg is gearing up for its biggest week of the season to date. The third-ranked Indians visit Platte Valley (Kersey)
on Tuesday, then turn around and host No. 1 University (Greeley)
on Thursday. If that's not enough, second-ranked Eaton
is on tap Saturday morning.
Strasburg will repeat that stretch at the end of the month into October, but for now, this week looms large for a team currently tied with the Reds with a 3-0 District 3 mark.
"Here we go with three games a week. We've got to make sure we're focused every single day," Woodard said. "Platte Valley has done some wonderful things in their pre-league, and we're going to have to go in there ready to fight. Between University and Eaton on Thursday and Saturday, that will definitely tell us where we are."
Eaton defeated University 14-9 on Aug. 28, and those two teams play again Sept. 22.
District 3 is just one of 21 leagues around the state where league play is heating up. Here is a glance at some of those leagues, and what games may play a deciding role in the next month:Class 5A
League play doesn't begin for another week, but there are some key matchups in the near future. Cherokee Trail (Aurora)
(12-1) is ranked second in 5A, with Eaglecrest (Centennial)
(10-3) ranked third. Smoky Hill (Aurora)
(10-3) is just outside the rankings but handed Cherokee Trail its first loss Sept. 8 in the Don McCall tournament.
Smoky Hill hosts Cherokee Trail in the Centennial opener Sept. 20, and the Cougars draw Eaglecrest at home one week later. Smoky Hill and Eaglecrest close league play Oct. 4.ContinentalDouglas County (Castle Rock)
(10-3) is ranked sixth. Over the next two weeks the Huskies face a ThunderRidge (Highlands Ranch)
team that is off to a 10-3 start; defending 5A champion Legend (Parker)
, which has struggled to a 5-9 start to the season; and eighth-ranked Rock Canyon (Highlands Ranch)
(9-2) on Sept. 24.East Metro
(8-3-1) clashes with rival Prairie View (Henderson)
(11-3) on Thursday. The other hurdle would be a game with Vista PEAK Prep (Aurora)
(11-2) on Sept. 27.Front Range
Three teams are currently ranked in the top 10. Top-ranked Loveland
(11-0-1) opens FRL play Tuesday with Horizon (Thornton)
, but two of its biggest games aren't until late in the season. The Indians, backed by perhaps the state's top pitcher in Laurin Krings
(11-0, 0.45 ERA, 169 strikeouts in 78 innings pitched) play No. 5 Legacy (Broomfield)
on Sept. 27. State runner-up Fossil Ridge (Fort Collins)
(10-2) awaits Oct. 2. Fossil Ridge and Legacy go head-to-head Thursday in Fort Collins.Jeffco
This is another league that doesn't get underway until next week. Columbine (Littleton)
(10-2) is currently ranked ninth, and while there are a number of good games awaiting the Rebels, it's the regular-season finale against 5A newcomer and 10th-ranked Valor Christian (Highlands Ranch)
on Oct. 6 that could bear watching.
Four teams – Arvada West
, Chatfield (Littleton)
and Pomona (Arvada)
– are sitting with eight victories.Class 4A
Second-ranked Silver Creek (Longmont)
(13-2, 6-0) has blitzed its competition early, but fifth-ranked and defending state champion Mountain View (Loveland)
(8-5-2, 5-1) isn't about to back down. The teams needed eight innings to decide things back on Aug. 28 – a 6-4 Silver Creek victory – and they meet again Sept. 20 at Silver Creek. Lucy Scott
homered and drove in three runs in the first meeting for the Raptors.South CentralPueblo County
(10-0, 1-0) is the only undefeated team remaining in 4A. The fourth-ranked Hornets have outscored opponents 129-11, but have nine league games remaining. Pueblo Central
, which reached the title game last fall, goes up against the Hornets for the first time Sept. 18.Tri-ValleyHoly Family (Broomfield)
has climbed to the top of the 4A rankings, but the Tigers (10-1, 2-0) will have to work to stay there. There are two meetings with third-ranked Erie
(9-3, 4-0) on the schedule, the first of which comes Sept. 18 in Erie. Holy Family and Erie meet again in the regular-season finale Oct. 4 in Broomfield.Class 3A
Fifth-ranked Faith Christian (Arvada)
(4-3) meets ninth-ranked The Academy (Westminster)
(8-1) twice in the coming weeks. The Eagles host the Wildcats on Sept. 24, and The Academy gets its turn to host Oct. 3.District 2
League play opens this week, and No. 4 Lamar
has a big one off the bat against a Rocky Ford
team that owns victories over Strasburg and Eaton but only has a 6-5 mark to show for it.
No. 6 St. Mary's (Colorado Springs)
(11-2) has two games against Rocky Ford (only one of which counts toward the league standings) and faces Lamar on Sept. 29. Those two teams played in the season opener, a 3-2 victory for Lamar.District 5
Three teams from the Western Slope are ranked, with Delta
(6-2) coming in at No. 7, Basalt
(6-0) at No. 8 and Meeker
(5-3) at No. 10.
Due to some quirks in the scheduling, Meeker has already played four league games via a pair of doubleheaders. The Cowboys visit Basalt on Tuesday and host the Longhorns Sept. 26; Delta visits for two games Sept. 22.
Delta has yet to play a league game, and the Panthers' only two non-league losses came to top-ranked University in eight innings and to Lamar on Aug. 25.