Moffat County softball players see solid season as part of Meeker squad
For the Craig Press
It’s not unusual for schools in Northwest Colorado to see athletes wearing different colors as they suit up for sports their own schools don’t have, and a banding together of softball players had several Moffat County High School athletes contributing this year.
The Meeker softball team ended its run within the 3A state playoffs in late October as part of a strong push by a squad comprised of Meeker, Rangely and Craig players.
MCHS lent four girls to the program: juniors Reagan Hafey and Dylan Herndon and freshmen Josefina Kuberry and Cheyenne Grivy.
The four showed their dedication to the sport traveling an hour and back on a daily basis along Colorado Highway 13 just to get to practices this fall.
After competing mostly in North Dakota throughout her childhood and joining a Denver summer program this year, Hafey was pleased to be brought into the fold.
“They do a really good job of making us feel like a team. They’re probably the most welcoming teammates I’ve ever had,” Hafey said. “There were a couple times when we got down on each other, but for the most part we were good about uplifting each other.”
Herndon agreed that there weren’t many growing pains bonding.
“There’s always that camaraderie of us all being from a small town, so it’s easier to be friends with them,” Herndon said.
Kendal Bergman had many of her school players competing during the summer as well as she prepared for her first time as head coach.
“I didn’t know how involved being the head coach was. The girls were so great, I couldn’t have asked for a better group. I probably only thought about softball for three solid months,” Bergman said. “You get way more involved than you think, which is good to care about it.”
Meeker’s season — their seventh since starting up in 2015 — started unceremoniously, with losses in their first six games. Some score differentials were as high as 10 runs, though two of their defeats were determined by one run in extra innings.
“Those first games we kind of walked out there like headless chickens,” Hafey said.
By the time the 3A Western Slope League schedule rolled around, however, something started to click.
“I think we had more of a drive to go to state because of the seniors we were losing,” Herndon said.
The Cowboys went 11-1 in conference play, with their only loss part of a split doubleheader against Montezuma Cortez that amounted to a lot of travel.
“We ended up making that whole trip playing Durango the first day, staying the night and then going to Cortez that morning,” Hafey said of the lengthy road trip.
The Cowboys and Panthers wound up splitting the league title due to a technicality in league rules.
“Next year if the same thing happens, we should win it. There was some kind of lingo that they should take in the overall record, and that shouldn’t come into play with just the league. Since it had never happened, nobody had dove into it before, but next year it’ll be more clear,” Bergman said. “League champ is the league champ, so I’ll take it.”
A season that was mostly spent on the road — only five games took place in Meeker, with Basalt forfeiting what would have been their last two home events — the Cowboys went into the regional portion of the postseason with a lot of energy, largely due to Bergman keeping them bolstered.
“She’s the reason why we get out there and have energy. It’s hard when you have a coach who doesn’t have that excitement, but she did a really good job at that,” Hafey said of the coach.
Kuberry added that Bergman refused to allow players to get in a mental slump after the early struggles.
“She really kept out heads up,” Kuberry said. “After losing those six games, she was like, ‘you guys can still do this.’ We were all just so excited to be at regionals.”
Seeded 14th, Meeker split the weekend with a 15-2 win over Faith Christian before a 10-0 shutout by University. As one of the top two teams in Region 7, they stayed alive in the playoffs but ended the fall with a 12-0 loss to Sterling on Oct. 22 to complete a 12-12 record.
“I think we all tried to focus on the fact that there shouldn’t be that much pressure, but we all still fell into it and got in our heads a little bit,” Hafey said of the postseason.
Hafey finished the season as the team’s leader in runs scored (29), tied for the best in total hits (27) and also led the group in doubles, with nine. With 23 RBIs, she also hit one home run, stole 21 bases, and maintained the team’s best batting average at .474, as well as staying the leader in walks, with 19.
Though primarily a shortstop, Hafey stepped on the mound several times to relieve regular pitchers Hailey Knowles and Brea Garcia. Her ERA was 4.61 with 10 strikeouts.
While All-Conference First Team distinctions went to Knowles and Mykayla Wille, Hafey was named Honorable Mention along with Garcia, Macy Ridgeway and Rangely’s Ryann Mergelmann.
“She’s a stud, the first day of practice you could tell she was a player. She could play any position you throw at her, solid in the lineup all the time, she’s got speed and she pitched some good innings,” Bergman said of Hafey. “It’s just a bummer she only came to us as a junior, I would’ve loved all four years with her.”
Herndon, who was in her third year on the Meeker team, saw some of her best numbers this year at the plate, with 13 hits, 10 runs scored and eight RBIs, mostly stationed in right field for varsity games.
“Our first-baseman got a concussion, so we needed someone to fill in and I had some experience, but I mostly enjoy outfield,” Herndon said.
Bergman said she could tell during the summer sessions that Herndon showed great improvement from the previous year.
“She really flipped that switch and started all but one game this fall. She didn’t even suit up for varsity last year, but for her to be a full-time starter this year, it shows what kind of work she’s put into it,” she said.
Kuberry and Grivy primarily played on Meeker’s junior varsity team, but with minimal JV games this fall, Bergman had them ready to step up to varsity when needed, with Kuberry suiting up for the playoffs.
“She definitely loves the game, and she’s still getting the swing of things,” Bergman said. “All four of them were crucial to the team, that’s for sure.”
The MCHS girls expect to be back in action in Meeker, and, while the Cowboys said farewell to three seniors this year, Bergman anticipates big things to come.
“We’ll lose our corners at first and third and a great superstar pitcher, but next year’s not going to be a building year, we should be right back there at state,” she said.
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