Softball regionals are set for this weekend, meaning the dreams of winning a state title are still intact for 32 teams in each of three classifications.

Which dreams are in reality remains to be seen.

Arvada West (5A), Holy Family (4A) and Eaton (3A) are the top seeds and one of eight region hosts in each class. History says they have a strong chance of winning their regional title and have an even better probability at being one of the two teams from a four-team region to advance to next week’s state tournament at Aurora Sports Park.

The road for teams outside the top 16 is always more bleak. Last year, only eight of the 40 regional games played in 5A and 4A ended in an upset in terms of seeding and only three of 24 games saw the favorites lose in 3A. In each classification, more than 80% of the top 16 seeds advanced in 2022.

For this week’s look at the sport, let’s stay away from the favorites and focus on possible bracket busters.

Class 5A

No. 22 Grand Junction Central: The Warriors (10-12-1) had just one win in their first nine games but ended the season on a 7-3 stretch, finishing second to No. 5 Fruita Monument in the Southwestern League.

They are at league-foe Fruita Monument’s regional Saturday along with No. 12 Legend and No. 28 Bear Creek. They lost to the Wildcats twice this season, though it took eight innings Thursday. They haven’t played Legend or Bear Creek.

Before their 6-5, eight-inning loss to Fruita Monument, they’d won a season-best five straight, scoring at least 11 runs in each. Their lineup has eight different players with at least 13 RBIs, led by junior Tuscani Ritter’s 24.

Senior Jazz Fenn has been their best bat, hitting .621 with 21 RBIs and a team-high 12 extra-base hits.

All 12 of GJC’s losses and one draw came to teams in the 5A or 4A regional teams.

Class 4A

No. 18 Niwot: The Cougars (16-6-1) have been red-hot of late, winning eight and tying once over their last 10 games of the season.

In their last two games, they won by mercy rule, 11-1, against both No. 12 Frederick and No. 16 Roosevelt. Meanwhile, their only loss since early September was to No. 2 Riverdale Ridge, which is the regional they are at Saturday. No. 15 Golden and No. 31 Eagle Valley are there, too.

Anne Booth is probably their best bat. Hitting .525, the senior has 31 RBIs and seven homers, both tops on the team. Against Frederick on Sept. 30, she went 4 for 4 with six RBIs and two home runs.

Kianna Butler is their top pitcher, touting a 2.19 ERA in 111 2/3 frames. She combined to allow just seven hits across the five-inning wins over Frederick and Roosevelt to close out the season.

Nine of the Cougars’ wins and their one draw were against region qualifiers. All six of their losses were against postseason teams, too.

Class 3A

No. 21 Gunnison: The Cowboys (13-9) are slugging at the right time, driving in 11 or more runs in six of their last seven games.

They’ll need to stay hot at regionals against two of the better pitching staffs in the class in No. 5 Lyons and No. 12 Lamar, which have allowed less than four runs per game this season. No. 28 The Classical Academy is also in the region, though the Titans have given up 7 ½ runs per game.

Maddie Vollendorf has 13 RBIs and two homers in her last three games. She has 31 RBIs and four homers this season. Kylee McDougal has a team-leading 36 RBIs with 12 doubles.

As far as big wins on their resumé goes, the Cowboys knocked off No. 10 Rocky Ford, beat No. 22 Montezuma-Cortez twice and split with No. 18 Meeker and No. 31 Cedaredge.