WHEAT RIDGE — Nothing has come easy for Ralston Valley or Wheat Ridge softball programs this season.
The Mustangs and Farmers both came into Tuesday’s non-league game with sub-.500 records and seeking some momentum before starting conference play next week. Wheat Ridge managed to end its 2-game losing streak — shutout losses to Pueblo South and Arvada West — with a 9-7 home win over Ralston Valley.
“It’s been a long time since we haven’t made it to regionals,” Wheat Ridge senior catcher Kate Anderson said. “This should pump up the girls. Getting this win was really important for us.”
Wheat Ridge (5-7 record) trailed 3-0 early, but answered quickly with a 5-run bottom of the second inning to take a 5-3 lead. The Farmers had a 2-out rally that featured an error, four singles and a pair of walks. A 2-run single by Anderson was the big blow.
“With having not scored any runs the last two games and scoring nine runs this game was really nice,” said Anderson, who went 2-for-3 from the plate.
Ralston Valley (3-6-1) responded with a 3-run top of the third inning to tie things up 5-5. Senior Haley Bass has an RBI single and sophomore Dakota Frederick ripped a 2-run double to cap off the inning.
However, the Farmers regained the lead in the bottom of the fourth inning with another 2-out rally. Junior Julia Shipley had a 2-run single and freshman Lilli Quezada had an RBI single to give Wheat Ridge a 8-5 lead.
“You have to be focused during the game, every single out and every single pitch matters,” Ralston Valley coach Wendy Davies said of the Mustangs giving up eight runs with two outs Tuesday. “Right now I don’t think we are focused and I don’t think that communication piece is in place at all.”
Ralston Valley junior Abri Trujillo belted a 2-run home run in the top of the sixth inning to cut the Farmers’ lead to 8-7, but Wheat Ridge senior Sydnee Flotron had an RBI ground-out in the bottom of the sixth to give the Farmers an insurance run.
Wheat Ridge senior pitcher Emily Anderson wouldn’t need it as she got some great defensive plays behind her by Shipley at third and Quezada at shortstop to end the game.
“We only had three defensive players from last year in the line-up. It’s been a really difficult process,” said Wheat Ridge coach Jamie Heflin after the Farmers’ first home game of the season. “This was a good win for us. The kids rose to the occasion and we hadn’t been doing that.”
Ralston Valley and Wheat Ridge are two of the most successful Jeffco softball programs over the past 15 years. In fact, the Mustangs and Farmers won their first state softball titles in the same year — 2002.
Ralston Valley claimed the 4A state championship in 2002 and 2007 before moving up to 5A where the Mustangs have been perennial state qualifiers. The Mustangs are the two-time defending 5A Jeffco League champion.
Ralston Valley begins its league title defense on the road against rival Arvada West next Tuesday.
Despite being the defending conference champions, A-West and Columbine might be the favorites. A-West is ranked No. 5 in the latest CHSAANow.com 5A softball poll and Columbine is No. 10 after placing second in the Dave Sanders Memorial Softball Tournament last weekend.
Wheat Ridge owns six state softball titles since 2002. The Farmers won back-to-back 5A state titles in 2002 and 2003. Since moving down to 4A, Wheat Ridge won state championships in 2008, 2009, 2011 and 2013. The Farmers have won seven 4A Jeffco League titles over the past nine years.
Wheat Ridge hosts Windsor on Saturday this weekend before heading into conference play at Green Mountain next Tuesday, Sept. 19.