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Montezuma-Cortez softball wins Western Slope title

Rylee Hickman crosses home plate and jumps to avoid the Cedaredge pitcher to score a run for the Panthers Saturday on the way to a 23-15 win. M-CHS won the second game also 20-6. (Sam Green/Special to The Journal)
Panthers celebrate Senior Day in style

They’ll go down as one of the most successful classes to ever play Panthers softball.

Playing in front of a packed house at Englehart Field in their final regular season home, Montezuma-Cortez turned the afternoon into a celebration for multiple reasons. With the 3A Western Slope League title on the line, the Panthers kept their composure to dispatch Cedaredge in a doubleheader sweep 23-15 and 20-6 to cap the regular season as league co-champions with Meeker.

The Panthers (17-5, 11-1 3A WSL) have gone 59-29 over the past four seasons, all winning campaigns, and any victory in the postseason will eclipse their highest single-season victory total during that span.

M-CHS head coach Anthony “Hippo” Frost helped to send off a group of six seniors, with each making their stamp on the contest.

Opening up their Senior Day doubleheader, the Panthers found themselves in an early hole. The Bruins (5-14, 4-7 3A WSL) started out well at the plate, posting an early 9-5 lead over the Panthers.

M-CHS responded with force, racking up runs in each of the first four innings to take firm control of the contest. The Panthers scored four in the second inning, five in the third, and four in the fourth to flip the script and take an 18-10 lead.

Allie Kibel is congratulated by her teammates after she scored a run for the Panthers. (Sam Green/Special to The Journal)
Koral Jackson scores a run for the Panthers as M-CHS won both games of a double header against Cedaredge. (Sam Green/Special to The Journal)
Hailey Veach catches a fly ball for an out Saturday against Cedaredge. (Sam Green/Special to The Journal)

Seniors Koral Jackson and Taiah Wilson led the charge for the orange-and-black, each collecting three hits in the first contest, with Jackson driving in five runs.

The return of senior Allie Kibel to the lineup proved to be a huge boost to the Panthers offense, as she reached base four times, scoring each time, and stealing six bases.

Classmates Hailey Veach, Brianna Comisky, and Nizhoni Sam each collected hits in their final regular games at Englehart Field.

Wilson picked up the victory with a complete game performance, striking out five Bruins.

Then, in an incredible demonstration of balance in the second contest, all nine starters picked up at least one hit, and each scored at least two runs.

On the defensive side, the Panthers played a clean contest in support of junior pitcher Lizzie Likes, with sophomore first baseman Kaycee Tom playing error-free defense. Likes relied on her defense to quiet the Bruins, while her offense batted around in the fourth inning, scoring nine runs to help end the contest via the mercy rule.

M-CHS shares the 2021 WSL crown with Meeker, with whom they had split the week before, and now await their regional assignment.

The Panthers enter the postseason ranked No. 9 in the state in both the RPI rankings, and in the most recent CHSAA coaches poll. Along with enjoying another fantastic regular season, M-CHS aims to make their third state tournament in the past four years.

CHSAA will release their pairings for the 3A regional tournament this week, with the state qualifiers advancing to play at Aurora Sports Park on the weekend of Oct. 22 - 23.