Sunday was an exciting, confusing and heartbreaking day for area softball coaches and their teams.
And no games were played.
Two of the three teams tied atop the 5A Metro League – Fountain-Fort Carson and Pine Creek – were included as the Colorado High School Activities Association made its regional tournament brackets public.
For the other, Palmer, the omission from the 32-team field came as a heartbreaking surprise.
“I’m stunned, and I just don’t know what else to say,” said Terrors coach Stephen DeFelice, who thought his team would take the second spot in a tiebreaker until being notified otherwise on Sunday. “I guess what’s disheartening is that we go through the whole season and only give up 71 runs in 19 games and have our best season ever and we’re not in. I’m just dumbfounded.”
Fountain-Fort Carson (10-8) Palmer (15-4) and Pine Creek (16-3) each finished 4-1 in the league, so the CSML’s gauntlet of intricate tiebreakers decided the matter.
The first tiebreaker is head-to-head, which wasn’t applicable in this case as the three went 1-1 against each other. The second was league record – again a wash as all were 4-1 – and the third was runs allowed to the teams that finished in the tie. That gave Pine Creek (10) the nod ahead of Palmer (12) and Fountain-Fort Carson (16).
But that was not the final order.
Once Pine Creek’s runs allowed total broke the three-way tie, the CSML tiebreaking system was reset and head-to-head competition between the Trojans and Terrors was the decider. That left Palmer on the outside looking in due to its 9-7 loss to Fountain-Fort Carson on Thursday in a game the Terrors led 4-1 at one point.
CHSAA reduced the CSML’s number of automatic regional bids from three to two after the 2011 season in order to make more at-large berths available for Colorado teams. Despite the team’s best record ever, Palmer was not awarded one of those bids.
“I wish we could have played a little bit better competition, but we beat the teams that were on our schedule,” DeFelice said. “It just boils down to the fact that somebody should have been advocating for this league to get three teams in. I’d like to know how many 15-4 teams are sitting at home.”
Record-wise, Palmer is easily the best 5A team not in the regionals, and there are four teams who qualified for Saturday with losing marks.
Not even first-year Fountain-Fort Carson coach Jennifer Daigneault fully understood how her team edged Palmer for the final regional spot.
“It’s super confusing,” said Daigneault, whose 24th-seeded Trojans will play No. 9 Castle View (14-5) Saturday. “One minute, I thought we were completely out, and then I found out that we’re in. I think it’s a bummer all the way across. Palmer should be in also.”
Pine Creek is seeded 27th and will square off against Region 6 host No. 6 Rock Canyon (15-4). The Eagles are euphoric after completing a massive turnaround from an 0-18 season in 2011 under second-year coach Dave Warhoe.
“We’re excited, and I think the whole school is excited,” Warhoe said. “When the season started, the girls said, ‘Lets win more games than we lose. Then it turned into, ‘You know what? We’ve got a shot to win this whole thing.’ It’s just been great.”