AURORA — The Holy Family Tigers were not about to let it happen again.
A year after losing in the state semifinals, they were on the brink of an early exit on Saturday against D’Evelyn in the Class 4A state semifinals at Aurora Sports Park.
They were down to their last out.
Then Tigers junior catcher Abby Edwards stepped up to the plate, with runners on second and third, in the biggest moment of her prep career.
“We do hitting games every practice and they always put me and Ava (Kuszak) in those situations when we need that extra hit and I knew that was what it was for,” said Edwards, whose single just snuck by a diving Kylee Ornstein at third base. “We used every little thing we had and — I even had (2018 Player of the Year) Erin (Caviness’) helmet and I tapped my finger on the sticker of her helmet — and every little thing we could do to win, any sort of luck, I just knew it had to be me.
“I knew it was going to happen, and none of it could have happened without Cassidy (Chvatal)’s amazing bunt. We just came around at the right time.”
You could say that again.
The Tigers would go on to beat the Jaguars 12-7 and carry the momentum of a huge seven run inning into a title game against Northern Colorado Athletics Conference foe Mead. Edwards would belt a first inning grand slam and Holy Family would go on to win its second title in three years, 9-6 over the Mavericks.
“I’m on Cloud Nine. What a year it was and what a ride with these girls,” said first year coach Moriah Nguyen, who took over the helm of her alma mater after Mitch Martinez retired last season. “This is very sweet for me, coming in my first year and coaching and teaching. These girls were freshmen and they worked their tail off all four years. They had the courage, anything they could do and the grit, fighting, clawing and scratching to win games.”
How good was this group of nine seniors each of the last three years? They went a combined 70-6 over the last three seasons.
After the theatrics of the semifinals game, the Tigers got out to a quick lead against Mead and never surrendered it. The Tigers loaded the bases with the first three hitters of the game to set the table for the middle of the lineup.
After Chvatal struck out, Edwards clubbed the first pitch she saw from Joslynn Veltien over the center field fence for a grand slam.
The Mavericks, who had gone 1-1 against the Tigers this season, chipped away at Chvatal and the Tigers lead. Two run home runs by Maddox Boston and Allie Szablowski in the second and fourth inning respectively, combined with a two-run third inning not only chased Chvatal, but trimmed the lead to 7-6 after four innings.
And in a tournament where having a second pitcher comes in real handy, the Tigers turned to senior Jaelon Giron one more time. She had gotton out of a bases loaded jam in the third inning against D’Evelyn and then shut the door on the Jags the rest of the way.
She came in in the fifth inning against a Mavericks team that felt like it had momentum on its side and again, made her mark. She closed out the game with three scoreless innings of three hit ball, striking out two and walking none in relief of Chvatal.
“They had me throw yesterday at practice and I really didn’t expect anything today,” said Giron, who two game totals were 7.1 innings pitched, seven hits, one run, one walk and six strikeouts. “Coming in with the bases loaded was a lot of pressure, but that is what I’ve been waiting for, for the four years I’ve been here.”
Said Edwards: “(Jaelen) just throws such a heavy ball, it breaks and it just gets harder as it comes to you. Her ball just spins so unnaturally that no hitters are used to it at all. You can adjust in the box all you want, and Craig (Whitlock) calls such great pitches, but she keeps you so off-balance with such different spin. She is just so unpredictable.”
Said Nguyen: “Jaelen stepped up bigger than I could have ever imagined. I’m so proud of her.”
While Giron was busy shutting the door on the potent Mavs offense, the Tigers were getting busy adding a little insurance. Annika Manzanares, who was brilliant at the plate all day — going 4-for-8, with two home runs against D’Evelyn and 5 RBIs — reached on an error and then came around to score on Kuszak’s sacrifice fly to make it 8-6.
Edwards would put the final nail in the Mavericks coffin with a little league home run in the bottom of the sixth. She doubled to deep right field and when she tried to stretch it to a triple, Mead second baseman Tayler Brown overthrew third base and Edwards never stopped running and scored easily.
“This just feels so good,” said the usually stoic Edwards, who couldn’t hold back the tears after the win.
(3) HOLY FAMILY 12, (2) D’EVELYN 7
At Aurora Sports Park
Holy Family (17-2) 001 130 7 — 12 14 2
D’Evelyn (17-2) 222 000 1 — 7 10 2
Holy Family hitting (ab-r-h-bi) — Eldredge 5-1-3-2, Whitlock 5-1-2-0, Kuszak 4-2-1-0, Chvatal 3-0-0-0, Edwards 3-0-2-3, Garcia 0-0-0-0, Pfenning 4-1-1-2, Deau 4-2-2-0, Giron 2-2-1-0, Manzanares 4-2-2-5, Contreraz 0-0-0-0. 2B — Giron, Edwards. HR — Manzanares 2 (1 on in the 5th; 2 on in the 7th); Eldredge (solo in the 5th); Pfenning (1 on in the 7th). Totals 34-12-14-12.
D’Evelyn hitting — Marvel 4-2-2-1, E. Dalla 4-0-0-0, Av. Garbarek 4-0-2-1, Au. Garbarek 3-1-3-0, Robberson 3-0-0-1, Ornstein 4-1-1-0, Mussara 3-0-1-1, Riebe 3-2-1-1, I. Dalla 2-0-0-1, Fark 0-0-0-0. 2B — Av. Garbarek. HR — Riebe (solo in the 7th). Totals 30-7-10-6.
Holy Family pitching (ip-h-r-er-bb-so) — Chvatal 2.1-6-6-5-2-1, Giron 4.2-4-1-1-1-4.
D’Evelyn pitching — Av. Garbarek 5.1-9-6-5-0-4, Fark 1.2-5-6-6-0-0.
STATE CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
(3) HOLY FAMILY 9, (4) MEAD 6
At Aurora Sports Park
Mead (17-3) 022 200 0 — 6 10 4
Holy Family (18-2) 421 011 x — 9 13 0
Mead hitting (ab-r-h-bi) — Griebling 4-1-1-0, Elsis 4-0-0-0, Adams 4-0-1-0, Sauvageau 4-0-2-2, Wilson 4-1-1-0, Wiescamp 3-0-1-0, Boston 3-2-2-2, Szablowski 3-1-1-2, Brown 2-1-1-0, Veltien 0-0-0-0. 2B — Sauvegeau. HR — Boston (1 on in the 2nd); Szablowski (1 on in the 4th). Totals 31-6-10-6.
Holy Family — Eldredge 4-1-2-1, Whitlock 4-2-2-0, Kuszak 3-1-2-3, Chvatal 4-0-0-0, Edwards 3-2-3-4, Garcia 0-0-0-0, Pfenning 4-0-2-0, Deau 3-0-0-0, Giron 3-1-0-0, Manzanares 4-2-2-0, Contreraz 0-0-0-0. 2B — Pfenning, Edwards, Kuszak. HR — Edwards (3 on in the 1st). Totals 32-9-13-8.
Mead pitching (ip-h-r-er-bb-so) — Veltien 2-7-6-5-1-2, Adams 4-6-3-1-2-4.
Holy Family pitching — Chvatal 4-7-6-6-1-1, Giron 3-3-0-0-0-2.