Wheat Ridge still on top as others look to dethrone champs
Green Mountain, D’Evelyn and now Valor to push Farmers
Everyone wants to know what Wheat Ridge softball’s secret is and how the school manages to continually maintain itself as one of the state’s best.
But their coach Marty Stricklett is happy to share his team’s secret: “hard work and toughness.”
The Farmers won yet another state softball title last season cementing a dynasty that has extended nearly a decade, by hoisting four state championship trophies.
What is scary — for the rest of 4A Jeffco — is that Wheat Ridge could even be better this season.
The Farmers return the most dynamic hitting duo in the state in any classification in senior Analece Apocada and junior Ann Marie Torres, and they feature the most complete offensive lineup in 4A softball.
And if Wheat Ridge plans to repeat as not only 4A Jeffco league champs but as state champions, they are going to need every ounce of that offense because for the first time in several seasons the Farmers don’t have an ace pitcher to lean on.
“We are going to have a really good offense this season, maybe one of our best ever,” Stricklett said. “But we don’t have that pitcher just yet who can lead us where we want to go.”
The team lost Jessica Salbado to graduation last season and in the process they lost one of the best pitchers in the program’s history.
Now, the Farmers are holding an open competition to see who will be their opening day starter and the team may dub Torres as the starter at the top of their rotation.
But whether it is Torres or another potential pitchers who earn the job, turning that pitcher into the next Salbado will be a tall task.
In addition, Green Mountain and D’Evelyn expect to both be improved units this season. The Jaguars finished as runners up to Wheat Ridge in 4A Jeffco with their only league loss coming to the Farmers.
However, D’Evelyn will play host to Wheat Ridge this season and perhaps home field advantage could be the advantage the Jaguars need to overtake the Farmers.
And Green Mountain could be the best kept secret in Jeffco softball this season, returning all but one player from last season’s team that finished 10-11 (4-3 in league).
The Jaguars, the Rams and Evergreen are the three teams who will attempt to dethrone Wheat Ridge from the top of the 4A Jeffco standings this season.
Also, Valor Christian has been selected to join 4A Jeffco this season and they could make an immediate impact.
While it is unknown what the Eagles will bring to the league, their coach is very familiar with Jeffco softball.
Valor’s coach Dave Atencio was the longtime coach at Dakota Ridge where he had tremendous success — to the point where the softball field is named after him.
But he left Dakota Ridge a couple seasons ago and Atencio has now been building Valor into the same type of elite program as he did at Dakota Ridge.