NIWOT — Last season, anybody who was paying attention knew that the Niwot Cougars could pitch the ball with Nickie Blue in the circle. And everybody knew that the defense behind her was a bit suspect.
Untimely errors cost the team some games, but that problem seems to be one for the past.
As usual, Blue pitched a phenomenal game, holding visiting Silver Creek to three hits while striking out six, a low total for her. And the Cougars’ defense stayed strong, committing just one error and making some big plays in the field on the way to a 2-1 victory on Thursday in a Class 4A Northern Conference game at Niwot.
Blue, who tossed a no-hitter in the season opener, likes what she has seen so far.
“We did some really good things on defense,” she said. “This year, we know each other better and we’re more comfortable around each other. Being comfortable means we play better.”
Niwot senior Jordan Eutsler drove in the winning run in the bottom of the sixth, finishing 2-for-3 at the plate with a triple and a run scored. Freshman Jessica Johnson showed some good awareness on the base paths to stay alive and cross home for the winner.
“This gets us pumped up for the rest of the season. This was a game we wanted,” Eutsler said.
There’s a definite rivalry brewing between fifth-ranked Niwot (4-1 overall, 4-0 league) and seventh-ranked Silver Creek (3-1, 3-1). Last year, the teams traded victories in the regular season and the Raptors edged out a win at the regional tournament.
“We’re looking at the bigger picture, looking at what happens in October in the postseason,” Silver Creek coach Ryan Beavers said. “You never want to lose to your cross-town rival, absolutely, but in the scope of things it’s not the end-all, be-all of our season.”
That’s for sure. Raptors pitcher McKenna Kostelecky gave up just two runs on five hits and kept her team close.
The scoring started in the bottom of the second when Eutsler ripped a leadoff triple over the head of Silver Creek left fielder Ashley Beavers, who had a painful collision with the outfield wall. Eutsler then scored on a wild pitch to take a 1-0 lead.
The Raptors answered in the fourth after Rachel Olson singled up the middle and then moved over to second on a groundout. The Cougars got caught slipping when Kerry Brundage showed bunt and Olson tried to steal but got caught between second and third.
That triggered catcher Taylor Supino to fire the ball over to third base in a pick-off attempt, but the throw went wide and Olson rounded third and scampered home for the tying run.
“We’ve been focusing on our defense, and other than that one play we showed that we have the defense to back Nickie up,” Niwot coach Bobby Matthews said. “We had some great plays out there.”
In the sixth inning, Johnson reached base on a Silver Creek fielding error at third base and hustled over to second before the Raptors could return the ball to the field. Johnson moved to third on a wild pitch in the dirt and then jogged home after Eutsler ripped a single through the left side of the infield.
“Last year in close games I think I would have cracked. I wasn’t as strong emotionally as I am now, and it’s the same for all of us,” Blue said with a bit too much humility. “We’ve matured with the game, and we learned what to do and how to act in certain situations.”
Brady Delander can be reached at email@example.com.
NIWOT 2, SILVER CREEK 1
At Niwot H.S.
Silver Creek (3-1, 3-1) 000 100 0 — 1 3 1
Niwot (4-1, 4-0) 010 001 x — 2 5 1
W — Nickie Blue (4-1). L — McKenna Kostelecky (3-1).
Silver Creek hitting (ab-r-h-rbi) — Elise Dugwyler 3-0-1-0, Amanda Siedem 3-0-0-0, Shelby Keil 3-0-0-0, Rachel Olson 3-1-1-0, Kostelecky 3-0-1-0, Kerry Brundage 3-0-0-0, Devin Aubry 2-0-0-0, Sierra Gray 2-0-0-0, Chelsea Engard 2-0-0-0. Totals 24-1-3-0. 2B — Dugwyler.
Niwot hitting (ab-r-h-rbi) — Taylor Supino 2-0-0-0, Jessica Johnson 3-1-0-0, Blue 3-0-1-0, Mikalah Artzer 3-0-1-0, Jordan Eutsler 3-1-2-1, Haley McPherson 3-0-0-0, Halie Artzer 3-0-1-0, Raven Baca 2-0-0-0, Rosie VandeHoef 2-0-0-0. Totals 24-2-5-1. 3B —Eutsler 2.
Silver Creek pitching (ip-h-r-er-bb-so) — Kostelecky 6-5-2-1-1-4.
Niwot pitching (ip-h-r-er-bb-so) — Blue 7-3-1-1-0-6.