Note: For more photos from Andy Bockelman, click here.

It’s already been a historic season for the softball program at Boulder High School, which won a league championship for the first time in 25 years. Could it get even better this weekend?

Feel-good stories like the Panthers will be scattered amongst the 5A-3A regional tournaments starting Friday. It’ll either be one more step towards gold for programs across the state, or a final chapter to their 2022.

Thirty-two qualifiers in each classification are broken into regions of four teams, with 5A and 4A being double-elimination tournaments and 3A single elimination. Half the teams will advance to the state postseason the following weekend.

Let’s take a look at a few sleeper teams from each classification.


Class 4A

No. 32 Boulder: It’s been a fun year for the Panthers. Why should it stop?

They can play loose and free this weekend as the biggest underdog in the tournament.

The last team in the classification to make the region field gets No. 1 Lutheran in the first round Friday. Which, maybe less fun, means they might face Lions ace Hailey Maestretti and her 21-1 record on the mound.

To advance, the Panthers will need to continue their torrid streak offensively — scoring at 13.7 runs per game in the regular season — and do so against likely better talent than they faced in the 4A/3A Colorado League.

A big day from Sophia Pereira, who hit .493 and drove in 35 in the regular season, would go a long way in a region that also includes No. 16 Palmer Ridge and No. 17 Pueblo East.

No. 28 Wheat Ridge: The Farmers have juggled around .500 for most of the season. They’re a team littered with large margin wins and lopsided defeats.

Which version shows up to 4A Region 3 at Frederick Friday remains to be seen.

If all goes well, they’ll get a solid performance from ace Emilia Eaton, who touts a 4.13 ERA over 120 1/3 innings pitched. Makayla Pedraza will continue her mighty slugging, coming in with all six of her team’s home runs on the season.

No. 18 Rifle: The Bears are peaking at the right time coming into the tournament on a seven-game winning streak.

Senior double-machine Hailey Worton had 15 of them during the season and drove in 32. Freshman Brynn Axelson had 37 hits and brought in 31.

They are in a region with No. 2 Holy Family, No. 15 Pueblo County and No. 31 Falcon.


Class 5A

No. 24 Rock Canyon: The best bet for a lower seed to advance to the final weekend is to have someone, a hitter or pitcher, catch fire. The Jaguars may have just that person.

Sydney Boulaphinh led the state in home runs in the regular season, blasting a dozen of them while hitting a ridiculous .600.

In a grouping that includes sharp aces in No.8 Broomfield’s Breanna Fiala and No. 9 Horizon’s Hadley Hudson, a big swing or two from the Rock Canyon slugger could turn the region on its head.

No. 22 Loveland: Pitching wins in the postseason.

The Red Wolves have pitching.

A team ERA of 2.89 on the season, ace Jordan Hodges comes into a regional led by No. 6 Ponderosa and No. 11 Grandview playing her best softball.

After her first two seasons pitching saw an ERA north of 5, Hodges is 8-3 this fall, allowing 37 earned runs in 74 frames.

Second to her, Ellie Heiser has allowed just 16 earned runs in 54 innings.

No. 20 Legacy: The Lightning are one of those teams that seem ranked … peculiarly.

They can hit, with three players — Ayana Goodwin, Kate Walker and Meghan Allshouse — who are batting over .500 on the season. And two in Jordyn Heronimus and Sam Bocis who have driven in 26 and 25, respectively.

They can pitch, too. Goodwin is 7-5 on the mound with a 3.24 ERA in 99 1/3 innings. She has allowed one or no runs in six of her last eight appearances.

Not the 20 seed you’d want to face.


Class 3A

No. 24 Faith Christian: The Eagles would have ranked better if not for a rough final week to the regular season, losing to The Academy and Peak to Peak a combined 27-7.

Before that, Faith Christian had been rolling. Four players with at least 50 at-bats hit over .400 in the regular season. Savannah Hylton led the way, driving in 15 with two of her team’s three home runs.

Faith Christian faces No. 9 Limon in the opening round.

No. 21 Meeker: Winners of four of their past five, the Cowboys face No. 12 Thomas Jefferson in the opening round.

Ryann Mergelman comes into the regional with three hits in three of each of her last five games. She homered and drove in eight of her team-leading 25 RBIs in the final two games of the year.

No. 18 Lyons: Ceci Chiaravalle is the story for the Lions.

The pitcher has been among the best in the classification, striking out 226 batters in just 107 frames.
The junior also leads the team from the plate, hitting .553 with a pair of home runs.

Upset in mind, the Lions and Chiaravalle face a hard-hitting Montezuma-Cortez offense in the opening round.