It started as a slugfest and finished as a pitcher’s duel.
And it wasn’t the ending Mullen wanted.
The Mustangs capped a productive season on Saturday at the Aurora Sports Park in the Class 4A semifinals, losing to eventual champion Mountain View of Loveland 7-4.
Mullen ended 16-9 on a cold, windy day that was the opposite of Friday’s hot and sunny conditions. Fittingly, it was just like the contrary beginning and ending of the game – all 11 runs were all scored over the first inning and a half.
“Nothing after the second inning,” Mustangs head coach Greg Hogan said afterward. “It was like the fireworks went out.”
A Mustangs lineup that had produced 48 runs in five previous postseason games was stymied after plating four in the first inning on Saturday. In fact, Mullen had only four hits over the final six innings, two in the seventh when it brought the tying run to the plate with two outs.
But Mountain View (22-3-1) got Mustangs scorching cleanup hitter Jessica Hafey on an infield popup to end it before going on to take out Pueblo Central 7-3 for its first title.
“We couldn’t get back-to-back hits (after the first inning) and we just needed a bleeder or something,” Hogan said.
The pace was brisk at the outset like the cold wind that lasted throughout the round. The Mountain Lions opened by sending eight batters to the plate and scored three runs with two outs on four singles and an error.
Not to be outdone, Mullen immediately retaliated with four of its own. A one-out walk to Caley McKune, a grounder by Marissa Sanchez that the Mountain Lions couldn’t handle and turned into a fielder’s choice, run-scoring singles by Hafey and Emma DiGiacomo, an RBI double by Tiffanie Brieno and arror off the bat of Elena Garcia gave Mullen a 4-3 lead.
However, Sanchez, a sophomore, was touched for four hits in the second and another Mullen error gave Mountain View a 7-4 lead.
And that was it. Sanchez, a sophomore, and the Mountain Lions’ Bailey Carlson, a freshman, closed the doors.
Mullen’s s considerable nonleague schedule was taxing and while it may not have bene able to repeat as Centennial League champion, a 5A league schedule provided benefits.
“Our schedule is amazing,” Hogan said. “I told our girls that every year they’ve been here that they’ve played a top-notch schedule. I’m just very pleased with the girls. They provided good senior eladership and fought through some tough games.”
Hafey, a senior who failed to get a hit only twice in three regional games and was 7-for-7 in her first two state games before going 1-for-4 in the semifinals, had no regrets.
“It was a tough loss, but it was a good way to end the season, I guess,” she said.