Brighton softball rallies late to edge Ralston Valley

ARVADA — Brighton senior Angel Mollel celebrating at second base after her RBI double signaled the final swing of momentum in a wild final few innings on the softball field Thursday afternoon.

Mollel’s double drove in senior Sarah Tiffany in the top of the seventh inning to tie things up 6-6 on Ralston Valley’s home field. A deep fly ball by senior Alexia Apodaca moments later scored Mollel from third base for the eventual game-winning run in a 7-6 win for the Bulldogs (2-0 record).

Ralston Valley junior McKenna Fitzgerald takes a hard swing during Thursday's non-league game against Brighton. (Dennis Pleuss/Jeffco Athletics)

“A win like this early in the season is huge. To go through a little adversity there in the middle, but see the bats wake-up in the seventh inning,” Brighton coach Marty Stricklett said. “To watch Angel jump up and down at second base was pure joy for herself and teammates. That’s what this is about. Kids having fun and playing the game right.”

Mollel reached base on all four at-bats, scoring three times. Her double was the lone hit Ralston Valley sophomore Ashley West gave up during her four innings on the mound.

“I was kind of expecting a change-up,” Mollel said. “I just timed it.”

Brighton led for most of the game until the Mustangs (0-2) put up four runs in the bottom of the fifth inning to tie things up 5-5. West ripped an inside-the-park, three-run home run to highlight the inning.

Ralston Valley grabbed a 6-5 lead in the bottom of the sixth inning with an RBI triple by junior Jaiden Geist. However, Brighton’s two-run top of the seventh inning gave the lead back to the Bulldogs and senior pitcher Tori Haug retired the Mustangs in order in the bottom of the seventh to end the game.

“We have a lot of things to work on,” Ralston Valley coach Wendy Davies said. “I did tell them we had some good hits, but we needed more timely hits. We needed to execute.”

Ralston Valley sophomore Ashley West fires toward the plate against Brighton. West's three-run home run help the Mustangs mount a comeback against the Bulldogs. (Dennis Pleuss/Jeffco Athletics)

A glaring issue Ralston Valley had came on the defensive side. The Mustangs committed seven errors in the loss. West and Ralston Valley starting pitcher Maya Bachman combined to give up just five hits, but the errors were costly.

“Probably a few defensive changes, but it’s a good group of girls,” Davies said after the Mustangs’ second game of the season. “They work hard, but as far as coaching goes, I’ve got some things to look at and change to make us better.”

It didn’t help Ralston Valley that it lost Class 5A Jeffco League first-team all-conference selection and starting shortstop Jordan West — Ashley’s older sister — before the season even started.

“That is a huge loss,” Davies said of losing starting Jordan due to knee surgery she had over the off-season. “She is an amazing kid. By far the best leader that we have vocally and physically. It was a horrible loss for us.”

Jordan batted .365 with 24 RBIs and six home runs during her sophomore campaign. Davies said she is still a tremendous leader in the dugout despite not being able to take the field this fall while recovering from surgery.

“I feel super confident with her (Jordan) behind me, but we just have to move on and come together as a team,” Ashley said of playing without her sister on the field. “We need to play for her and play for ourselves.”

Ashley could have more put on her shoulders with Bachman having to leave the game Thursday with an injury to her non-throwing shoulder. Ashley struggled with her control at times last season during her 56 innings pitched, but has been solid in the circle for the Mustangs through two games.

“I’ve been proud of her (Ashley). Even over the summer she struggled I think. We talked at the beginning of the year,” Davies said. “She is an amazing athlete at 6-foot-2 on the mound. Everyone, including her, thinks she should be striking everyone out and she has to get out of the mindset. She just needs to throw strikes and get ahead of the batters. She has been amazing so far.”

Ralston Valley and Brighton will actually see each other again just before regionals in early October.

“We are going to focus on the positive and we’ll see (Brighton) again in a couple of weeks,” Ashley said.

Brighton seniors Chloe Doyle (16) and Angel Mollel celebrate during the Bulldogs' 7-6 road victory over Ralston Valley on Thursday afternoon. Mollel drove in the game-tying run and scored the eventual game-winning run in the top of the seventh inning. (Dennis Pleuss/Jeffco Athletics)