Powerhouse programs collide to begin the season
Arvada West’s softball team did something Wednesday afternoon that it hadn’t done in five years.
The Wildcats took a 3-1 victory over Columbine — defending Class 5A state champions — that were No. 3 in the CHSAA Selection & Seeding Index. Besides being the Class 5A Jeffco League opener, it meant a little more for No. 1 A-West that had a 6-game losing streak against the Rebels.
“It is really big. It’s our first win since 2018 against Columbine,” A-West senior catcher Mo Johnson said.
A-West’s last win over Columbine was Oct. 13, 2018 in a regional title game. The Rebels had four straight league wins over the Wildcats, along with a non-league and regional playoff losses to Columbine in 2021.
“It has been awhile,” A-West coach Brenna Millikan said of ending the losing streak to Columbine. “Hats off to them. They are a very well-coached team and as tough as nails. We knew we were going to have a fight this game. I’m so proud of my team for stepping up when we needed it most.”
A-West (13-2, 1-0 in league) actually needed to rally to get the victory. Columbine took a 1-0 lead in the third inning after sophomore Livi Keiter tripled and scored to give the Rebels (13-3, 0-1) the early lead.
Keiter — niece of A-West pitching legend Kami Keiter who led the Wildcats to 5A state titles in 1999 and 2000 — doubled to leadoff the game, but was stranded.
“Livi was awesome today,” Columbine coach Jim Santaniello said of Keiter’s double and triple. “A few more timely hits and I think the whole complexion of the game changes.”
Columbine’s wasted opportunities early came back to haunt the Rebels as A-West senior ace Mac Ferguson got stronger on the mound as the game went along.
“That is the version of Mac that we know she is capable of,” Millikan said after Ferguson picked up her eighth victory in the circle and kept her ERA below 1.0 on
the season. “I think she really set the tone for us out there in the circle. The defense had her back and when they make big plays behind her it allows her to settle in and do her thing.”
Ferguson had five straight strikeouts through the middle innings while through the complete-game 6-hitter.
It also helped that A-West’s offense came alive in the bottom of the fourth inning with a trio of runs off Columbine senior pitcher Liz Phillips. Ferguson led off the inning with a walk and would score on an RBI double by Johnson to tie the game at 1-1.
Junior Jailynn Ausman gave A-West the lead with an RBI triple that nearly left the yard. Ausman scored after a sacrifice fly to right field and play at the plate where Columbine catcher Eva Martinez wasn’t able to hang on to the ball as Ausman slid into home.
“I think that created a lot of momentum for us,” Johnson said of the extra base hits in bottom of the fourth inning by herself and Ausman. “It kept us going and brought the energy up. It kept rolling through the rest of the game.”
The Rebels held on to the 3-1 lead for the rest of the games with Ferguson giving up just a single and hitting a batter in the final four innings.
“I’m just so proud of my team and proud of our mental approach,” Ferguson said after A-West got the monkey its back when it came to the Rebels. “It was a hard-fought game and we battled the whole game.”
A-West is in the early driver’s seat to win its first 5A Jeffco League title since 2017.
“We are coming into this league part of the season with a goal in mind,” Millikan said. “We are just going to focus one opponent at a time because its a tough fight all the way through.”
Columbine will have an uphill climb trying to claim its third straight conference title.
“I told them not to let this loss define us,” Santaniello said of his post-game speech. “It was a matter of a couple of plays and a couple of key hits. We want to
stay on our present course. We have higher goals. This is a setback, but it isn’t a defining setback.”
Dennis Pleuss is the Sports Information Director for Jeffco Public Schools. For more Jeffco coverage, go to CHSAANow.com.