Trying to find positives in a 7-0 defeat can be a difficult thing to do.
But, when you are a team in transition, such as the Columbine Rebels, the early season setbacks can become valuable teaching tools.
Shortly after the Rebels were defeated by visiting Ponderosa on Sept. 2 at Dave Sanders Memorial Field, coach Robin Ortiz gathered his girls around and discussed what transpired on the field.
While he was generally pleased with the team’s defensive play and the pitching efforts of starter Sarah Kastanek and reliever Alyssa Rothrock, it was the offense, or lack thereof, that left Ortiz scratching his head.
“Our lineup, from top to bottom, is probably the best we’ve had in the past few years,” Ortiz said. “We didn’t show it (Sept. 2). I’m not sure why, but we weren’t as aggressive at the plate as we normally are. We took a lot of good pitches.”
Columbine’s lineup was dealt a blow before the game got underway as Megan Bond was made unavailable due to an illness. Ortiz was hopeful she would return soon to the team.
“Not only is she a big bat in our lineup, she’s a leader on this team,” Ortiz said. “The girls look to her and her not being here I think affected the team a little bit.”
Ortiz said that while there are some familiar names on the Columbine roster, it’s the lack of varsity experience that has hindered the Rebels so far.
“That’s why these nonleague games are so important,” Ortiz said. “You’d like to come out and play great softball but sometimes it takes longer for teams to find their identity. I think we’re going through that now and hopefully by the time we get to (Jefferson County) league play, we’ll be putting all three phases of the game together.”
One of the biggest challenges facing Columbine this season is replacing all-state pitcher, Kelsey O’Brien, who led the Rebels to three straight Class 5A state tournament appearances and struck out over 200 batters her junior year.
Against Ponderosa, Kastanek started things off, and while she was a bit inconsistent at times, she also showed flashes of good things to come when she kept her release point in check. Kastanek allowed a run in the first and left the game after four innings trailing 2-0.
Ponderosa broke the game open in the fifth when Rothrock entered the game, scoring five runs to take a commanding 7-0 lead. Rothrock settled down after the big fifth inning and worked herself out of a jam in the sixth and retired the side in order in the seventh.
Ortiz said it’s likely Rothrock will be the one tabbed to toe the rubber for the Rebels this season.
“Alyssa’s got the experience factor,” Ortiz said. “She filled in last year when Kelsey was injured. Both Alyssa and Sarah need to throw more, though. Neither threw a lot this summer so we need to get them both more work so they can find that consistency.”
As noted, Columbine’s offense was silent most of the game, but it didn’t appear that would be the case early on. Consecutive singles by Danielle Aronoff and Sarah Magner in the first inning gave the Rebels a good scoring chance but they were unable to capitalize. After that, Columbine managed just two hits the rest of the way and only advanced a single runner past second base.
“We’re going to keep working hard,” Ortiz said. “We’re a really young team. I think we’re going to be a team that gets better as the season goes on.”