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Softball preview: Lauren Foster channels inner major leaguer on Valor Christian's quest for third title

Valor Christian Wheat Ridge softball state title

(Ray Chen/ArrayPhoto.com)

Not sure if Rockies pitching coach Steve Foster knows this or not, but his daughter gushes over the Blue Jays.

Lauren Foster says her MLB team is “the Colorado Rockies, of course,” then hushes her light Texas cadence as if trying to tell a secret without Steve overhearing, “but this year the Toronto Blue Jays are my favorite.”

Foster loves her dad and his team. But Valor Christian's all-state shortstop is in love with one of the majors’ top batting lineups, and aims to come out swingin’ like Josh Donaldson this season as she tries to help the Eagles secure a third straight Class 4A softball title.

The University of Wisconsin pledge returns with fourth-year head coach Dave Atencio and seven other core members of last year’s state championship squad. After a junior campaign that ended with a tie for third-most home runs in the state and the most RBIs, regardless of classification, Foster feels confident as a player and leader to guide the Eagles on another title quest.

Lauren transferred last year from Legacy Christian Academy in Frisco, Texas after Steve Foster was hired by the Rockies in late 2014 and her family moved to Colorado. She went from a tiny school and softball team that didn’t ever make playoffs, to hoisting a state trophy for Valor — a school “that’s good at everything and everyone hates.”

Foster didn’t think much of the early “everyone hates Valor” warnings, but after a big softball game against league rival Wheat Ridge last season — the Eagles’ only blemish on a nearly perfect schedule — is when Foster realized the animosity was very real, starting with postgame backlash on Twitter.

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” Foster said. “Valor won a lot of state championships last season, and I understand it could be frustrating for some schools, but our softball team works hard, and we win fairly.”

Coming off its back-to-back state championships, the Valor softball team is up to 17 players on the roster from 12 the past two seasons, and could possibly field a JV team this season, which would be the second time in the school’s nine-year history.

“We’re a very small program,” Atencio said. “Some schools have upwards of 50 players try out, and the last two years we’ve had 12 players total with varying degrees of talent, including two who never played before.”

Heritage softball coach Pablo Severtson coaches Foster on the Colorado Styxx Gold 18U club team with Atencio as his assistant. Severtson said Valor will be tough to beat, and Atencio has done a great job with developing the program.

“The difference between club and high school is in club, the players are already good,” Severtson said. “But in high school, coaches really have to develop their players and what they’re given, regardless of skill or experience level.”

Even before Foster’s first practice with Valor, Atencio knew the 5-foot-4 shortstop was a special player.

“I watched her play last summer before she came to Valor when her Texas club team came to Colorado for a tournament,” Atencio said. “She had been enrolled at Valor for the fall, and as an incoming junior, she already had the skill set of a collegiate ball player: first rate instincts and approach at the plate, and very disciplined.”

With major league blood in her veins, Foster started out throwing and hitting baseballs with Steve, who has also coached for the Royals and Marlins. But she found her own love for softball on a rec league in Dallas the summer after her third grade.

“You can tell she’s definitely been around big league people with the way she plays,” Severtson said. “She leads by example, and she’s one of the best ball players I’ve coached in 25 years.”

Now comfortable with her role on the team, Foster will continue to lead by example and hopes to become more vocal this year as she channels her inner Josh Donaldson on the chase for another state title.

Softball Preview

"There are no days off. ... You gotta bring it everyday, or you're gonna get beat." — Pablo Severtson, Heritage softball coach

Class 5A defending state champion Mountain Range sits at the top of the preseason rankings and returns 5A’s player of the year Hunter Huser, one of the state’s best pitchers. Mountain Range will take on the 4A defending state champion and reigning two-time 4A player of the year Ali Kilponen in a highly anticipated game on August 27 at Metro State.

A few other favorites in 5A this season are Fossil Ridge, Legend, Eaglecrest, Ralston Valley, ThunderRidge and Douglas County, and teams that have been rebuilding and reloading the past few years, like Legacy and Loveland, could shine.

Erie, ranked No. 2 in preseason, seems to be the biggest threat of dethroning Valor in 4A behind the dominant arm of ace Rio Sanchez. Wheat Ridge, Frederick and Mountain View will also be very tough teams to beat.

Coming off a perfect season in 2015, Strasburg is the indisputable preseason favorite in 3A. Coach Michelle Woodard and the Indians have gone 89-4 the past four years and will be gunning for a fourth state title in five years.

Class 5A

  • Defending champion: Mountain Range
  • Season begins: August 19
  • Playoffs begin: October 15
  • Championship: October 22 at Aurora Sports Park
  • Returning all-state players: Malory Eldredge, Ralston Valley, LF, senior (first team); Hunter Huser, Mountain Range, P, senior (first team); Lindsey Malkin, Broomfield, 3B/C, senior (first team); Jesse Smith, Legend, senior (first team); Melisa Gellermann, Grand Junction Central, P/OF, senior (second team); Shea Mauser, Arvada West, P/1B, junior (second team); Tatum Rembao, Loveland, OF/P, senior (second team); Sloane Stewartson, Rock Canyon, C, senior (second team); Emily Taggart, Legacy, senior (second team); Alexandra Velazquez, Grandview, RF/C/P, senior (second team)

Class 4A

  • Defending champion: Valor Christian
  • Season begins: August 19
  • Playoffs begin: October 15
  • Championship: October 22 at Aurora Sports Park
  • Returning all-state players: Lauren Foster, Valor Christian, SS/UTIL, senior (first team); Alexandria Kilponen, Valor Christian, P/1B, junior (first team); Rio Sanchez, Erie, P/INF, senior (first team); Jessica Bellatti, Evergreen, SS, senior (second team); Alicia Hernandez, Frederick, P/OF, senior (second team); Mikayla Marquez, Kennedy, P/LF/CF, junior (second team)

Class 3A

  • Defending champion: Strasburg
  • Season begins: August 19
  • Playoffs begin: October 15
  • Championship: October 22 at Aurora Sports Park
  • Returning all-state players: McKenna Gubanich, Faith Christian, SS/UTIL, senior (first team); Dakota Stotyn, Strasburg, P/1B, junior (first team); Lanessa Amador, The Academy, C/P/2B, senior (second team); Selena Medina, Rocky Ford, P/INF, senior (second team)