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Niwot goes 2-2 at Berthoud Invitational

Series: Niwot softball | Story 6

September 16, 2020

Jocelyn Rowley

Head coach Bobby Matthews conducts a socially-distanced mound conference during Niwot's game against Air Academy on Sept. 12. From left, Dulce Amaya, Anne Booth, Jasmine Aldama, Bobby Matthews, Ayva McComas and Hannah Bassett.

A truncated softball season doesn't leave much room in the schedule for tournament appearances, but Niwot was able to make time for four games at the 2020 Berthoud Invitational, held Sept. 11-12 at the Barnes Softball Complex in Loveland. Thanks to clutch play on both sides of the ball from Dulce Amaya, Anne Booth, and Ayva McComas, the Cougars pulled off two wins over non-conference teams, and nearly escaped with a third win over a dreaded conference rival. While far from perfect, sixth-year head coach Bobby Matthews was happy with his youthful team's 2-2 effort over the weekend, and looks forward to a strong finish to the unconventional 2020 season.

"Honestly, three and one is where we should be," Matthews said after his team held on for an 8-6 win over the Air Academy Kadets on Saturday, following an 11-2 loss to Prairie View. "We blew another lead against Mountain View, and they seem to have our number and be able to come back against us. Overall, though, I think the way the season is going and the things we're building upon, yes, I'm very happy. We're not used to having a big lead, and we were able to shut it down, and that was huge. People were getting on base. The bottom of the lineup is really starting to put the ball into play. So overall we're growing."

That was evident especially in the Cougars' offensive production at the tournament. Four players-Amaya, Booth, McComas, and freshman Autumn Rutherford-had at least five hits for the weekend or reached base six or more times. McComas, a third-year veteran shortstop who leads the team in batting, had six hits, three for extra bases, including her first home run of the season in the 9-8 loss to the Mountain Lions.

Freshman Booth matched the junior with six hits, including three in the game against Mountain View, which she also pitched. Amaya, the team's only senior and hero of the blowout over Thompson Valley on Sept. 3, had five hits on the weekend, while the speedy Rutherford also had five.

"We've been telling her to just get on base and use her speed," Matthews said of the newcomer, who also plays volleyball. "Her speed can be deadly and it can disrupt a lot of things."

To be sure, the Cougars still have a way to go. While they seem to have found some rhythm on offense, decision-making is sometimes still a problem on defense, and their inexperience can sometimes get the better of them. At the same time, the team fielding error rate is slowly dropping, and they managed to turn five double plays in the win over the Kadets. But they could also use some polish at the plate, Matthews said, after the team left 39 runners stranded in the four games.

Jocelyn Rowley

Speedy freshman Autumn Rutherford takes a lead off of third base during Niwot's game against Air Academy on Sept. 12.

"I think overall there are little things we can work on like situational hitting, being a little more aggressive in the strike zone offensively. I think we let good pitches go by that could have possibly driven in some runs."

With two more wins and losses, Niwot moved to 5-6 on the year, a clear improvement after a rocky 1-4 start to 2020. Unfortunately, they have just five games remaining thanks to pandemic measures, and the postseason seems unlikely, Matthews said.

"Typically, in a normal season, we'd be right where we needed to be, but unfortunately, we have five games left. So it's a little different there, but we could go on a little roll. Who knows what could happen. All we can control is us, and what happens, happens."

The Cougars will be back on the diamond on Sept. 18 at home against Berthoud.


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