Experience pays dividend

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By Dan Johnson

To get to where they used to be, and where Columbine currently is, Dakota Ridge softball coach Dave Atencio has spent a good deal of time this season earning his title as coach.

With a team comprised primarily of underclassmen – third baseman Christa Murphy is the team’s lone senior – the Eagles (1-7 Jeffco, 7-9 overall) have hit hard times in Class 5A Jefferson County League play, losing their last six games, including a 12-1 setback to Columbine on Sept. 27 at Dakota Ridge High School.

Atencio, whose team last won a Jeffco League title in 2003, said that despite the losses the girls have done a good job to keep an upbeat attitude and have shown a willingness to learn.

“What we try to do is recap each game,” Atencio said. “In practice, we’ll spend a good hour going over the different situations. We’ll ask ‘What should we have done here?’ and try and educate them on what happened in the game. We’ll watch tape, show them the mistakes they made and go work on it at practice. That helps a lot.”

Atencio also concedes that in addition to the team’s inexperience, its pitching hasn’t been quite up to par, in stark contrast to its Sept. 27 opponent. Columbine’s Kelsey O’Brien can contain any lineup she faces, thanks to her powerful right arm. She neutralized the Eagles, limiting them to five hits while striking out nine.

Columbine, meanwhile, had little difficulty finding its groove against Becca Hart. The Rebels scored five runs in the opening inning and went on to slug 17 hits.

First baseman Megan Bond drove in four runs, two on a single in the first and the last two on a towering home run over the left field wall in the second.

“We’ve been working a lot on our hitting in practice,” said Bond, who finished with three hits. “We got in the groove early, which was good.”

In addition to Bond, Alyssa Rothrock and O’Brien also had three hits and drove in a combined five runs. Kelsey Boyle, Dana Kuglin and Charlotte Nuiang all had two hits for the Rebels, who scored the game’s final two runs in the sixth inning.

“We always want to get out to a good start and take the lead,” Columbine coach Robin Ortiz said. “The problem for us has been we get out to a lead, and then we coast home. We challenged the girls to try and score in every inning, and they responded. We didn’t score in every inning, but we scored in several. Seventeen hits is outstanding and anytime you put up five runs in the first inning, it’s going to be a tough day for the other team.”

The win, coupled with Ralston Valley’s loss to Arvada West, moved the Rebels (10-8 overall) into sole possession of second place in Jeffco with a 6-2 mark.