Before turning its attention to the postseason, Ralston Valley softball has some unfinished business in the Class 5A Jeffco League.
The No. 6 ranked Mustangs took one step closer to a shot at winning their 10th conference softball title since Ralston Valley High School in Arvada opened during the 2000-01 school year. Ralston Valley (12-4, 5-1 in league) remained atop the 5A Jeffco standings with a 2-0 shutout victory at home Saturday morning against Columbine (11-4, 3-3).
Dakota Ridge (15-3, 6-1) is the only other 5A Jeffco team with one league loss going into the final week of the regular season. The Eagles used an eight-run fourth inning Saturday to hand rival Chatfield an 11-4 loss. It was Chatfield’s second conference loss. Ralston Valley edged Dakota Ridge 2-1 at the start of the conference schedule.
“I think until you get out of league that is what you concentrate on,” Ralston Valley coach Wendy Davies said. “You have to focus on one win at a time because if you don’t win those you aren’t going anywhere.”
While regional/state qualifying tournaments loom just around the corner (Saturday, Oct. 12), the Mustangs take pride in winning the always deep and competitive 5A Jeffco League.
“I definitely think league is important to all of us,” Ralston Valley senior Sierra Galbreath said. “I think that league (title) would prove how bad we’ve wanted it this whole season.”
Columbine had dropped its previous two conference games to Dakota Ridge and Pomona. However, the Rebels gave the Mustangs all they could handle. Columbine actually out-hit Ralston Valley by a six to three count, but three errors cost the young Rebels that start just two seniors.
“We know we’re good, but we are really young,” Columbine coach Robin Ortiz said. “What we talked about coming into the game is we couldn’t make mistakes. Ralston Valley is good enough that they’ll capitalize on mistakes.”
The Mustangs pushed across their first run in the bottom of the second inning. Senior Brenna Martinez was caught in a pickle between second and third base, but a throwing error allowed Martinez to escape and score.
Ralston Valley had opportunities in the fourth and fifth innings to extend its lead, but Columbine junior pitcher Madison Reuter was able to keep the Rebels within a run. The biggest jam Reuter was able to get out of was a bases loaded situation with Galbreath at the plate. Galbreath eventually flied out to center field to end the bottom of the fifth inning.
Reuter allowed three hits while walking three batters and striking out two. Ralston Valley senior McKenzie Sadler provided an insurance run in the bottom of the sixth inning with an RBI double to the gap that scored Martinez.
Columbine threatened in the top of the seventh inning with singles by junior Shelby Copley and sophomore Alex Scheid to bring the go-ahead run to the plate with two outs. However, Ralston Valley sophomore pitcher Rylie Strong struck out pitch-hitter Kacey Cruz to end the game.
Strong allowed six hits and struck out five in her fourth shutout victory this season. She also retired 12 straight batters in the middle innings.
“I just have to make sure I throw my pitches in the right spots,” Strong said of protecting a one-run lead for the majority of the game. “I really don’t get nervous.”
Davies gave credit to her senior leadership, Strong for another solid outing and catcher Alexa Samuels for calling a good game behind the plate.
Ralston Valley finishes out its conference schedule with back-to-back games this Monday (Sept. 30) and Tuesday (Oct. 1). The Mustangs travel to Standley Lake for a 4:30 p.m. Monday before hosting Chatfield at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday.
“I think the next two are going to be intense games,” Davies said. “We just have to take care of business on our own end.”
Columbine closes out its regular season against Arvada West and Chatfield before heading into the postseason.