LITTLETON — After a pair of close Class 5A Jeffco League softball victories to open conference play, Columbine didn’t mind a less stressful game Tuesday afternoon.
“This was nice to kind of put it in cruise-control,” Columbine coach Jim Santaniello said after a 13-1 home victory at Dave Sanders Memorial Field against Lakewood. “But we definitely have some things we still need to work on.”
The Rebels (13-5 record, 2-0 in league) were able to work on hitting in the bottom of the second inning against the Tigers (9-10, 1-3). Columbine sent 13 batters to the plate. The Rebels put up nine runs off seven hits and took advantage of three Tiger errors.
The big inning gave Columbine an 11-0 lead through two innings.
“I think we definitely came out swinging the bats a little better today,” Columbine sophomore Korbe Otis said. “We just need to keep sharpening it up and fine-tuning things. We’ll get after it next game.”
Senior Charlotte Stokes delivered the biggest highlight with a 2-run home run off Lakewood starting pitcher Lucy Carney in the second inning. Freshmen Riley Marshall, Mary Kitch and senior Daysha Mendez followed up with three straight hits after Stokes’s home run.
“It was huge and we were preaching to the girls to just try to hit the ball hard,” Santaniello said of the Rebels’ big inning. “I think some of the girls were getting to fancy, so we wanted to get back to really trying to hit the ball hard and it worked out today.”
Otis was her normal dominating self on the mound. She struck out eight batters over five innings. She scattered three hits and gave up a pair of walks.
The only run Lakewood scored was in the top of the third inning. Senior Lauren Rice stole second base and junior Anna Good scored from third when the throw went into centerfield.
The Rebels did commit three errors, but it wasn’t a concern for Otis.
“I know they (defense) has my back,” Otis said. “They have been working really hard. We just need to keep working away.”
Otis picked up her 10th win of the season and lowered her ERA to 1.79. She has 116 strikeouts on the season through 82.1 innings pitched and is clearly one of the top pitchers not only in 5A Jeffco, but the state.
“She (Otis) is the best weapon to have. We are so lucky to have her,” Santaniello said of the Rebels’ ace. “She just brings the same approach every day. She isn’t only an outstanding pitcher. She is a great leader, plays great defense and she is a great hitter. We just need to build around her.”
Looking ahead, the Rebels are on the road against Pomona (9-9, 1-2) on Thursday. The final three conference games next week will surely determine the league champion. Santaniello knows winning a league title will give the Rebels a lot of momentum heading into the postseason.
“It gives us more time to prepare and bond as a team,” Otis said of facing A-West, Ralston Valley and Valor the last week of conference play.