ARVADA — Arvada West’s softball team officially put the past behind them Saturday afternoon at Youth Memorial Park.
“I don’t think we were really nervous at all compared to last year,” A-West senior Shea Mauser said after the Wildcats punched their ticket to next week’s Class 5A state tournament with a 13-3 Region 5 championship game victory over ThunderRidge. “This morning just felt like another game-day. It didn’t seem like a bigger day for us.”
The Wildcats put the heartbreak of losing back-to-back regional playoff games a year ago to Mountain Range and Grandview at Lutz Sports Complex in Arvada. A-West had no intention of having history repeat itself. The Wildcats were also a host team last year as a top-8 seed.
“We have been talking about last year a lot, how we wanted to redeem ourselves,” said A-West senior Morgan Winters, who went 3-for-4 from the plate with three RBIs in the No. 9 hole. “Our focus this week was redemption.”
Atonement for last year’s disappointed started early with a 9-0 shutout victory against Pine Creek in the regional semifinal. Mauser pitched a complete-game shutout to move the Wildcats (18-3 record) into the regional title game against ThunderRidge.
The 5A Jeffco League champions gave starting pitcher Morgan Clausen some early run support. With two outs in the bottom of the first junior Christaana Angelopulos doubled to get things going. Clausen and Mauser ripped back-to-back singles to set the table for freshman Savannah Clausen.
“Our hitting has been contagious. I think that has kind of set the tone for our team this whole season,” A-West coach Brenna Millikan said. “Once one gets going the rest of them follow suit.”
Clausen, Morgan’s younger sister, took advantage of a strong wind blowing out to centerfield as she belted a 3-run home run to push the Wildcats’ lead to 4-0.
“She (Savannah Clausen) is so good,” Mauser said. “She is our only freshman and one of the best hitters we have. It’s nice to have her.”
ThunderRidge got as close as 5-2 and threatened a few times with Morgan Clausen pitching for A-West in the regional title game. Grizzlies’ senior Alexis Fiechtner hit a solo home run to start off the top of the sixth inning to cut the lead to 8-3, but the Wildcats responded in a big way in the bottom of the sixth.
A-West batted around in the 5-run sixth inning. Sophomore Shelby Robb ended the game with an RBI single that induced the 10-run mercy rule.
“We know our pitchers are going to keep us in every game. When our kids are hitting the ball it definitely makes it a lot of fun,” Millikan said as A-West ran its winning streak to 13 games. “I’m really, really proud of these kids right now. It feels really good.”
Moving forward into next week’s 2-day state tournament (Friday and Saturday) at Aurora Sports Park the Wildcats will have the luxury with not only a solid hitting team, but also in the pitching circle. A-West has an advantage over most teams with two premier pitchers ready to hopefully grab four victories in two days and bring the Wildcats’ first state softball title since 2000.
“They both (Morgan Clausen and Mauser) are throwing so well. They each bring something a little different, that’s a good thing,” Millikan said of the Wildcats’ two-headed pitching monster. “Going into next weekend it has me confident that we can go to either one and have success.”