AURORA • Discovery Canyon won its first 4A state softball tournament game Friday morning before falling 4-0 to No. 1 seed Pueblo East and pitcher Katie Orona in the afternoon.
The Thunder defeated Silver Creek 6-4 marking the first time in three trips to the state tournament that Discovery Canyon had escaped the first round. Fellow area qualifier Palmer Ridge was defeated 7-0 by No. 2 seed Niwot in the first round.
“I’m really proud of this program,” Discovery Canyon coach Tanya Ramsay said. “It’s not just something that started this year; it started six years ago.
“The first thing we said is that we want to build a tradition and I think we’ve done that.”
In the quarterfinal game, Orona, a junior, was surgical in her approach. She allowed just three hits and walked none while striking out 10.
Discovery Canyon starter McKenzie Surface held the Eagles scoreless through two innings, but a two-out rally in the third inning put three Pueblo East runs on the board. The rally featured three hits, two wild pitches, a walk and an error.
“When you’re here, you have to play clean and you have to play your best ball,” Ramsay said. “We didn’t do that consistently.”
The Thunder’s best opportunity came in the sixth when Shiloh Grover and Shelby Hetzel led off the inning with back-to-back singles. Orona retired the next three batters to end the threat.
But before the Thunder could reach that first state quarterfinal game, it had to do something it hadn’t done in its previous trips to the tournament in 2009 and 2011 — win a first-round game. They did that with a victory over Silver Creek in the morning game.
Discovery Canyon took the lead with a three-run, five-hit first inning during which Surface and Destiny Lackey had RBI singles. Surface and Taryn Arcarese drove in runs in the second to give the Thunder a 5-1 advantage.
Silver Creek answered with a two-run homer by McKenna Kostelecky in the third and then drew a walk to lead off the fourth when Ramsay pulled starter Kacee Schroeder in favor of Surface.
Surface retired 12 of the first 13 batters she faced before surrendering a pair of two-out hits in the seventh.
Palmer Ridge came into the state tournament as the No. 15 seed, which carried with it an unenviable matchup against No. 2 seed Niwot and its South Carolina-bound senior pitcher Nickie Blue.
Blue shut down the Bears, retiring the first 12 batters, eight by strikeout, before Libby Acker drove a two-strike pitch to the fence in right center for a double. She answered that challenge by retiring the final nine Palmer Ridge batters with six more strikeouts.
For Palmer Ridge, which was making its first state tournament appearance, and Discovery Canyon, it was another step in the growth of the young programs.
“We understand what it takes to win,” said Arcarese, a senior who’s been on the Discovery Canyon varsity all four years. “We understand what it takes to be a team, we understand what it takes to be a family and that in itself is the greatest lesson you can learn.”