LITTLETON — It was cold, damp and getting dark late Tuesday afternoon at Dave Sanders Memorial Field and Columbine’s Callie Stern decided it was time to go home.
“All I needed was a single,” Stern said of her walk-off 2-run hit in the bottom of the fifth inning that induced the 10-run mercy rule. “She (Arvada West pitcher Isabelle Schwien) wasn’t really giving me much to hit. The last pitch was there so I swung.”
Stern’s drive to right field gave Columbine — ranked No. 2 in this week’s CHSAANow.com Class 5A softball standings — the 11-1 victory over Arvada West.
“If you look back at the season she (Stern) has had so many clutch hits,” Columbine coach Jim Santaniello said. “She just lives for that moment. We call her Ms. Clutch.”
Riley Marshall and Korbe Otis scored on Stern’s hit as the Rebels could escape the temperatures that had dropped into the high-40s.
“It was definitely a great way to win,” said Otis, who got the victory on the mound while striking out nine batters in five innings of work. “You want to have that kind of energy at the end of each game.”
The victory was key in what will be a mad dash over the next 10 days to the 5A Jeffco League title. Columbine (18-2, 4-1 in league) is trying to defend its conference title, but hit an early snag with a loss to rival Dakota Ridge on Sept. 19. Santaniello admitted it was a wake-up call for his Rebels.
“I think we were tired and I think we might have been overconfident,” Santaniello said of the conference opening loss to Dakota Ridge last week. “We look at every opponent as a huge challenge.”
A-West (9-10, 3-1) came in riding a 5-game winning streak and a game up on the rest of the field in the conference standings. However, Columbine quickly took the lead with a 4-run first inning against the Wildcats.
Otis, Marshall, Emma Todd and Shea Cummings all had hits as the Rebels batted-around in the first inning against A-West starting pitcher Savannah Clausen.
“When we can jump on a team and just let her (Otis) do her think we are really tough to beat,” Santaniello said. “It was really nice to get run support early on.”
Otis wasn’t able to get a 1-2-3 inning in the circle during her five innings pitching. She walked three, but gave up only two singles. Clausen singled and eventually scored the Wildcats’ lone run.
“We are taking it one pitch, one inning at a time,” Otis said. “We are just trying to get our jobs done.”
The next job ahead for Columbine is Ralston Valley at 4:30 pm Thursday back at Dave Sanders Memorial Field. The Mustangs (6-13, 3-2) dropped behind Columbine and A-West in the conference standings with a loss to Lakewood (17-4, 4-2) on Tuesday.
“We are taking ever game as a championship game right now,” Columbine coach Jim Santaniello said. “Our intensity is off the charts right now. It’s really paying off for us.”
A-West begins a 4-game home stretch to close out conference play. The Wildcats start by hosing Dakota Ridge at 4:30 pm Thursday.