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CNCC softball scores big with Josie Hiatt

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Photo by Tamie Meck Josie Hiatt celebrates with first base coach Matt Cano as Hotchkiss scores a run against Peyton in the Class 2A state semifinal game. The starting right fielder for Hotchkiss, Hiatt signed to play softball for Colorado Northwestern Com

Hotchkiss High School won't soon forget Josie Hiatt. A member of Hotchkiss High School graduating class of 2018, Hiatt recently signed to play softball at Colorado Northwestern Community College. She is among four Hotchkiss Bulldog baseball players moving on to the next level in their careers.

Yes, baseball. Hiatt, 18, was the starting right fielder for Hotchkiss this season, helping the Dogs rack up a 19-4 record, a district title, and get to the state semifinals. In first-round state playoffs she made a game-saving catch in extra innings.

At the plate Hiatt averaged .304 with one double and seven RBIs and scored 15 runs.

Hiatt has what it takes to make an impact at CNCC, said head baseball coach Blake Carlquist. "I think Josie will be as good as she wants to be. She's a talented person and she's willing to work hard."

"It's different from most girls' high school careers," said Hiatt. But Josie just did what Josie has always done: play ball.

Hiatt started competing at age 9. After playing girl's summer softball she joined triplet brother Chase in the Cal Ripkin summer baseball league. Their schedules conflicted, she said, "so it made sense. I just decided I might as well play on the same team as Chase."

Chase Hiatt was a four-year varsity player for Hotchkiss and signed to play baseball at CNCC. Sister Shelby helped manage the team.

After paying her dues her freshman year, Hiatt made the junior varsity team as a sophomore. She took her junior year off and played a season of basketball, which she said just wasn't for her. Realizing it was her senior year and college was just around the corner, she returned to the diamond. "I just really decided to work hard and just realize that I'm as good as anybody else out here," said Hiatt.

She didn't expect to play on varsity, let alone start, but Carlquist saw something special in her. It's her competitive nature that allows her to succeed, he said. "She's not an easy out; she doesn't give in to anybody. That's huge. I think any competitive person doesn't like losing or failing, but I think she's also able to get rid of it and flush it fairly quickly and move on to the next bat. It doesn't just drag on."

Hiatt also played four years of prep softball for Cedaredge. Traveling every day was tough, and she was beat at the end of the day, she said. But it paid off, and she loved her team and coaches. Last fall she was named Class 3A All-State Honorable Mention and played in the Colorado High School Coaches Association All-State game. "It was a good experience," she said.

All the work paid off. In the first round of state baseball playoffs, she made what Carlquist called a game-ending, "game-saving play," a diving catch deep into right field in the bottom of the eighth inning with the bases loaded. "I didn't even have time to think about it. I just reacted and ran up and caught it. I squeezed my glove as tight as I could. I did not want to lose that ball."

She's also the only high school girl to get a hit off of Paonia senior Kaden Seriani, an all-state first team senior whose pitches top 90 mph. The single came in the Bulldogs' 1-0 conference win last April, an at bat she spent all week preparing for. "That felt amazing," said Hiatt. "I was so happy. That was such an intense game, too. And the way he throws is scary."

Opposing players took notice of Hiatt, and treated her differently than her teammates, she said. "Like, oh, there's a girl up to bat. I'm going to strike her out. They think I'm not as good." That, she said, "encourages me to play better, to play harder."

She was also thrown a lot of inside pitches, which she believes were meant to prevent her from getting a hit. "I've also noticed that if I do get a hit off of a pitcher, they will fall apart, or the coach will come out and talk to them," said Hiatt.

But her teammates, some of whom she's competed with for almost a decade, didn't treat her differently. "I feel like they have my back," she said. "They're my friends. They treat me the same."

"Josie has accomplished things not many girls will ever accomplish," said Carlquist. He has no doubt that baseball and going up against guys like Seriani will make her a better college softball player. "Just knowing that you can go out and be very competitive with the boys, I think that's going to speak volumes for her."

CNCC competes in the Division II National Junior College Athletic Association, "They're in a tough conference," said Hiatt. That's what she wants. She likes her future coach and teammates, and the school is close to home.

Hiatt said she believes she accomplished everything at Hotchkiss High School that she set out to do and hopes she will be remembered there. "I don't have any regrets," said Hiatt. "I feel like I laid everything out on the table and played my best."

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