ARVADA — Columbine sophomore pitcher Korbe Otis walked out of the circle after recording her finale strikeout Tuesday with a look that there is still work to be done.
“It feels really good. We are just climbing the ladder,” Otis said after Columbine’s sixth straight win. “We are sending a message that we aren’t to be taken lightly.”
Despite a 10-3 road victory against Arvada West, No. 10 in the latest CHSAANow.com Class 5A softball rankings, the Rebels still hasn’t officially locked up their first 5A Jeffco League title since 1998. However, Columbine is about as close as it could get to grabbing its first conference title in two decades.
“It feels so amazing,” Columbine coach Jim Santaniello said needing just one more league win in the Rebels’ final two conference games to grab the hardware. “I’ll have to go back and see the last time we’ve won a league title at Columbine. It’s been a long time. I’m on Cloud Nine right now. We want to take care of business — run the table and be as hot as we can for the postseason.”
Columbine still has a road game against Ralston Valley (Thursday) and home against Valor Christian (Saturday).
There wasn’t much doubt going into Tuesday’s showdown that the winner would have a fairly clear path to the conference title with two league games remaining. The Wildcats (14-7 record, 5-1 in league) and Rebels (16-5, 6-0) both came in undefeated in league play with identical 5-0 records and a three-game lead over the rest of the field in 5A Jeffco.
A-West and Columbine have both been on the roll in their previous three conference games. The Wildcats and Rebels had combined to outscore league opponents 56-6 in six conference games.
“This was our biggest test,” Columbine junior Callie Stern said. “I think this game will give us a lot of confidence going up against Ralston and Valor. We have a lot of confidence right now.”
Stern came up big against A-West. The junior led off the second inning with a single off A-West sophomore pitcher Savannah Clausen. Stern and junior Ally Distler would eventually score on a 2-run single by freshman Emma Todd.
“Jumping up 2-0 I think really put us at ease,” Santaniello said. “I’m a firm believer in scoring first so the pressure goes on them.”
The fourth inning is really where the Rebels’ offense broke things open. Stern got is going again with a leadoff single. Columbine sent 11 batters to the plate in the 7-run inning. Otis delivered a bases loaded 2-run single and Stern actually get her second hit of the inning with a 2-run single too.
“Not very often,” Stern said with a smile when asked if she had ever had two hitting in a single inning. “It felt really great.”
Freshmen Charlotte Stokes and Mary Kitch also drove in runs as Columbine took a commanding 9-0 lead.
“(Columbine) definitely came out swinging and you have to give them a ton of credit for that,” A-West coach Brenna Millikan said. “I think we lost focus for just a short time there.”
Senior Daysha Mendez had an RBI single in the top of the fifth inning to extend the lead to 10-0 for Columbine. A-West did prevent the 10-run mercy rule when senior Christaana Angelopulos scoring on an error in the bottom of the fifth.
Angelopulos also drove in a run in the sixth. The Wildcats scored again on a flyout RBI by junior Belle Schwien to make the final score 10-3.
“We are a young team. After losing the seven (seniors) from last year I don’t know a lot of people expected we would be in the position we were today to have that opportunity,” Millikan said. “I’m so proud of the girls for where we are right now.”
A-West closes out its regular season with conference games on the road against Dakota Ridge (Thursday) and Lakewood (Saturday).
“Our season is not done,” Millikan said. “We are going to bounce back.”