Listen to this post
RBC I “These girls are amazing,” Meeker’s Rick Dodds said.
Dodds, along with Rangely’s Andy Shaffer and Kelly Brown, coach the Rio Blanco American Legion 14-and-under girls’ fast-pitch softball team, made up of four girls from Meeker, four from Rangely, one from Rifle, one from Parachute and one from New Castle. The Rio Blanco team won the district tournament and will advance to the state finals in Aurora on Friday.
Dodds said his team scrimmaged Rangely last season and the coaches realized that neither team would have enough girls to fill a rooster, so they talked of combining them for this season. Schaffer was quoted in Saturday’s Grand Junction Daily Sentinel after the championship win as saying, “We decided to put these girls together and a lot of good came from that.”
The team had two practices together before they started playing games in the Colorado River Valley Little League (CRV), where their home games were in Rifle.
“The Rangely end had to travel a minimum of 100 miles to play each game, including our ‘home’ games,” Dodds said. The Rio Blanco team finished the regular season with a 13-3 record.
Dodds said his team was a 14 and under juniors team that competed against teams from Fruita, Grand Junction, Delta and Palisade, where all were 16 and under senior teams and they were all-star teams, made up of two-four selected players from each team in their respective districts, which each had four or five teams in their respective districts to select from. The Rio Blanco team was the 14 and under team in the CRV, so they represented the CRV in the district tourney without pulling kids from other teams, like their competition.
The tournament was played in Grand Junction and the Rio Blanco team played the Grand Mesa All-Stars and beat them 22-11 before playing the Orchard Mesa All-Stars, whom they beat 31-25 to advance to the championship game against the defending state champion Delta All-Stars.
“We’re a hitting team, it has gotten us to where we are,” Dodds said of the high scores they put up against the Grand Mesa and Orchard Mesa teams. “We deliberately choose to be the visitors so we can put points up in the first inning and let them know what they are in for.”
The Rio Blanco team scored in the first inning against Delta and kept the lead the entire game, fighting off two rallies from the defending state champions, to win 16-13.
“Our pitchers Sidney (Shaffer) and Maria (Gonzales) really did a great job,” Dodds said. “Both pitched 3-4 innings per game and Maria did exactly what she’s supposed to do — come in, in the fourth or fifth inning, and seal the deal, and Maria pitched the best she’s pitched all year.”
The Rio Blanco team is one of three teams remaining in the state, and, since they scored the most points in their district tournament, they will get a first-round bye and automatically advance to the championship of the double elimination tournament, representing the Western Slope.
If they win the state tournament, they will travel to Waco, Texas, for the Southwestern Regional Tournament.
“It’s amazing how these kids have come together and learned to play as a team,” Dodds said.