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Ali Kilponen stepped up as a team leader. Abbey Montoya took over at shortstop and both had stellar softball seasons.
Kilponen, a senior at Valor Christian, and Douglas County senior Montoya were named the 2017 Colorado Community Media South Metro Pitcher and Player of the Year respectively.
It was the third straight season Kilponen earned South Metro Pitcher of the Year honors.
Kilponen, who pitched Valor to three state Class 4A title as a freshman, sophomore, and junior, compiled state-leading figures this season with a 0.42 earned run average, 273 batters struck out in 134 innings pitched, 22 wins and seven no-hitters. Plus she hit .466.
“The two things that really stand out besides the stats were her leadership and mentorship,” said Eagles coach Dave Atencio. “We lost five kids from last year’s team and we only had four kids coming back from the three-peat title teams. We started four kids that were playing junior varsity last year and the other one was a freshman.
“She was the only senior and it was incredible for her to take on the leadership role and mentor those kids.”
Kilponen, who signed a letter of intent with Louisiana State, had an 87-4 career record with a 0.55 ERA, 50 shutouts, 17 no-hitters, 998 strikeouts in 537 innings pitched and 67 walks.
“As odd it may sound, she was probably better overall this year pitching-wise than she was the previous three years,” added Atencio. “She is bigger, stronger and more experienced from three years of playing high school and club level.
“In her four years at Valor her overall record is incredible. I’ve been doing this for 25 years on the high school level and in my opinion she will go down as one of the greatest if not the greatest pitcher that has ever come out of Colorado.”
Montoya, who signed to play at Coastal Carolina, was a catcher for Douglas County but played shortstop in club softball. New Huskies coach Dane Craig played her at shortstop the entire high school season.
“I caught all three seasons before my senior season,” said Montoya. “I played some shortstop my junior year. Growing up I was always a catcher/shortstop. During my club season I didn’t catch at all and wound up getting recruited as a middle infielder. I like shortstop way better. I was ready to play shortstop coming into high school ball after summer ball.”
Montoya led the Continental League with a .662 batting average, which ranked fourth among all Class 5A hitters. She was the league leader in runs scored with 32, stolen bases with 24 and on-base percentage at .685. She tied for first with 32 runs batted in and was second with a 1.140 slugging percentage.
“Things went pretty well,” said Montoya. “Going into the season with everything that went down, I was able to help lead the team and re-establish ourselves because we were kind of the underdog. I was just hoping to hit and field the ball as best as I could.”
She obviously hit well and also had a .924 field percentage with five errors in 66 total chances.
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