No. 3 D'Evelyn softball jumps out early on Conifer in Top-10 showdown

D'Evelyn junior Mia Riebe slides back into second base ahead of a tag by Conifer sophomore Regan Pell during the 4A Jeffco League game Tuesday in Conifer. The Jaguars won 11-4 to remain tied for first in the competitive 4A Jeffco League. (Dennis Pleuss/Jeffco Athletics)

CONIFER — D’Evelyn softball closed out its regular season in style Tuesday.

The Jaguars — No. 3 in the Class 4A CHSAANow.com rankings — jumped out to an early double-digit lead on the road against No. 6 Conifer.

“We knew how good Conifer is and how good Cheyenne is,” D’Evelyn coach Dan Porreco said of facing the Lobos and their junior ace Cheyenne Prieto, who sported a 1.68 ERA heading into the game. “That first inning kind of set the tone. I think it shocked them a little bit.”

D’Evelyn (15-1, 7-1 in 4A Jeffco League) put up four runs in the top of the first inning and eventually finished with an 11-4 victory in the Jaguars’ conference finale.

D'Evelyn freshman Peyton Marvel races down the line during a bunt single during the Jaguars' 4-run first inning against Conifer on Tuesday. (Dennis Pleuss/Jeffco Athletics)

Freshman Peyton Marvel set the table reaching on a bunt single to start the game. Junior Avery Garbarek drove in Marvel with an RBI single and senior Savannah Robberson added a 2-run single later in the inning.

“She (Prieto) is a great pitcher,” said Garbarek, who went 2-for-4 from the plate with 3 RBIs and a 2-run home run in the fourth inning. “I just told my team to get contact. See ball. Hit ball. We all contributed with the little things.”

Marvel scored again in the top of the second inning after a single. The freshman reached base four of her five at-bats, scoring three times.

“It’s really big. It’s my first year and I really want to win,” said Marvel, who in following in the footsteps of her two older sisters that played softball for the Jaguars.

D’Evelyn stretched its lead to 10-0 through four innings with a 5-run fourth inning. Senior Eve Dalla had a 2-run double before Garbarek belted her 2-run home run. The Jaguars managed 14 hits off Preto.

“We faced Izzy (Chatfield pitcher Izzy DiNapoli) and she was probably a little faster,” Marvel said. “I feel like we are better against faster pitchers.”

Garbarek pitched four shutout innings for the Jaguars, but the junior did have her struggles at times. She struck out 11 batters, but also walked nine.

D'Evelyn junior Avery Garbarek walked nine, but struck out 11 batters Tuesday at Conifer. (Dennis Pleuss/Jeffco Athletics)

“We were not at ease the whole game because of the walks,” Porreco said. “We left her in there. She (Garbarek) gutted it out and got it done.”

Conifer got on the scoreboard in the bottom of the fifth inning with a 2-run home run by sophomore Regan Pell. Prieto crushed a 2-run home run in the bottom of the sixth inning to make it an 11-4 final.

“It was frustrating,” Garbarek said of the walks. “I just had to adjust. I feel like I figured it out in the end.”

Conifer (12-3, 5-2) concludes its regular season with another big conference game. The Lobos travel to Bear Creek (11-3, 5-1) for a 4 p.m. game tomorrow (Wednesday, Sept. 30). Bear Creek, D’Evelyn and Wheat Ridge each have one league loss. There is a chance it could be a 3-way tie for the 4A Jeffco League title.

Tuesday was the regular-season finale for the Jaguars, who will now wait to see where D’Evelyn is placed in the 4A state tournament.

“Now we just have to focus on the next game which will hopefully be at state,” Garbarek said.

At the start of the day, Wheat Ridge and D’Evelyn were No. 1 and No. 2 in the 4A RPI standings. Conifer was No. 9 and Bear Creek sat at No. 10. Each 4A league champion will earn an automatic bid to the state tournament and the rest of the 16-team field will be filled out by RPI ranking.

CHSAA did make a significant announcement concerning softball. First, rosters were expanded from 12 to 15 immediately due to a variance granted by the Governor’s COVID Response Team.

Also, there was a change in the state tournament format that includes first-round (Oct. 6 or Oct. 7) and quarterfinal (Oct. 8) games being hosted by the higher seed. Semifinals and finals will be played Saturday, Oct. 10, at the Aurora Sports Complex.

“I’m so glad. I really like it,” Porreco said of the changes in the state tournament that originally was set as a one-day state tournament with the winner having to win four games in one day. “These great athletes can’t play four games in one day. It’s nice.”

Conifer junior Ashley Silvernale slides into second base ahead of a tag by D'Evelyn junior Izzy Mussara. (Dennis Pleuss/Jeffco Athletics)