ARVADA — Ralston Valley’s softball team made a statement Tuesday afternoon — the Class 5A Jeffco League title still goes through the Mustangs.
Despite a 3-7 record in non-league action, the defending 5A Jeffco champions came away with a resounding 10-2 victory over rival and CHSAANow.com Class 5A No. 4-ranked Arvada West (8-4-1, 0-1 in league) on the Mustangs’ home field. It was the conference opener for both teams.
“It was a huge (league) opener,” Ralston Valley senior Malory Eldredge said. “It’s great to start off league with a win.”
Eldredge came up with the big hit that broke the game open in the bottom of the fourth inning. The senior lined her second double of the game off A-West ace Shea Mauser for a bases clearing 3-run double to give Ralston Valley (4-7, 1-0) a 7-2 lead.
“I just really wanted to hit it for my team,” said Eldredge, who went 3-for-4 from the plate and scored three times. “That was a big point with only one out and the bases loaded. We needed those runs. I just wanted to relax and deliver for my team.”
The Mustangs ended up with a 5-run bottom of the fourth inning. Eldredge helped Ralston Valley tack on two more runs in the bottom of the sixth inning with a leadoff single. Sophomores Christaana Angelopulos and Sydney Stewart both singled in the inning of A-West junior Morgan Clausen to push the Mustangs’ lead to 10-2.
Ralston Valley cranked out a 13 hits in the victory. Eight of nine starters had at least one hit in the win.
“It was amazing that everyone up and down the line-up contributed,” Ralston Valley coach Wendy Davies said. “It was definitely a team win.”
Junior Gianna Browdy picked up the win in the circle for Ralston Valley. Browdy gave up eight hits, but the Mustangs’ defense was solid behind her. Ralston Valley turned a pair of double plays and senior catcher Alexa Samuels threw out a pair of Wildcats at third base that were trying to advance on wild pitches.
“Gianna threw a great game. For Alexa to get those put outs at third base were incredible,” Eldredge said. “That was a big key to the game getting those outs on the bases.”
Browdy tossed three scoreless innings to end the game to help erase memories of a rough first month of the season for Ralston Valley.
“It’s always a tough game against A-West. We just had to get our heads in the game and come out strong,” Browdy said. “We started out rough this year, but we are making a big comeback.”
Ralston Valley continues its league schedule when it host Lakewood at 4:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 22. The Mustangs finish September with a trio of road conference games before returning home to face Dakota Ridge on Oct. 1.
The top two team in 5A Jeffco receive automatic berths into the 32-team regional playoffs. There will be 18 RPI bids handed out to be determined by the seeding committee utilizing the final RPI rankings.
“Absolutely, you try to get one of those two automatics,” Davies said of the importance of league play. “That way you aren’t wondering about RPI points.”
A-West will try to bounce back when it hosts Bear Creek at 4:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 22.
The Wildcats could take some positives away from the league opening loss. Junior Kailey Robb went 3-for-3 from the plate and senior Brittany Phillips had a pair of hits, including an RBI double.
“Maybe a little bit of a wake-up call for us. It’s a way to refocus,” A-West coach Brenna Millikan said. “Obviously, we’ve got a lot to work on. I don’t think that was our best game or showed how we’ve been doing to this point and what we are capable of.”
With six conference games remaining, Millikan knows the Wildcats have time to atone its loss against Ralston Valley.
“We still have big goals ahead of us,” Millikan said. “Jeffco is a crazy league and so competitive. Anything can happen. Anybody can beat anybody.”