LONGMONT – The prevailing sentiment was that the Silver Creek softball team graduated too much talent to maintain its place among Colorado’s top teams and compete for a state championship in 2019.
But that’s been the narrative surrounding the club many times in the past decade and the Raptors have always seemed to find a way to answer questions and fill holes. This fall has no different, as the Raptors won their third straight Northern League title, dominated their regional and appear poised to challenge for a trophy yet again.
The Raptors heard all the talk about how their cupboard was bare and this year’s exceedingly young group embraced the challenge of proving everyone wrong. Their mantra “Not on our watch” drove the Silver Creek players to make sure they weren’t the group responsible for the down year the competition has been expecting, even hoping for, from their program.
“We are very young but it kind of makes it more interesting for us,” senior first baseman Makayla Garcia said. “It brings a lot more personality to the team and it’s been fun to set an example for this team. It was intimidating at first but we all trust in everyone and we’re peaking at the right time. I definitely think this is the right time for all of us to reach our potential and to win ourselves a trophy.”
Garcia is the lone returning senior starter from a 2018 Raptors team that graduated six seniors after finishing 25-3 and lost to eventual champion Holy Family in the Class 4A state semifinals. Last fall’s team also included two of the best players the school has ever seen in Jetta Nannen and Kayla Harper.
But the Raptors (20-5) are now going to the state tournament for the 10th straight year and basically every year, they see themselves as contenders.
With standout pitcher Maddie Kuehl leading the way with a 1.27 ERA and 199 strikeouts in 110.1 innings, the Raptors didn’t allow a run at regionals. Garcia has been the team’s laid-back vocal leader all season but an infusion of young talent has been the key to the Raptors holding their place among the state’s elite.
Underclassmen have accounted for an incredible 14 of the Raptors’ 17 home runs this season.
Freshman Talyn Fordham, who has a .327 batting average, leads the team with seven, four of which she hit in the final six games of the season including a pair of bombs at regionals. Sophomore Jordan Fisher, who is batting .471, has four round-trippers and hit two in the team’s last three games. Batting .375, sophomore Ashley Gaccetta has two home runs and freshman Isabelle Martinez has one.
“It’s crazy to think they lost all those great seniors on the team last year and we’ve come back with that same love for softball and have been able to keep it going,” Fordham said. “Us young girls came in and we didn’t want to let anyone down. The older girls have really helped us and we have a good connection between everyone and after a little while we all started to think we had a good team that can make it pretty far.”
Three of the Raptors’ losses this season were by just one run and all but one of those losses were against a top-10 team from either Colorado or Oklahoma. They will enter the state tournament as the No. 5 overall seed on Friday and will take on No. 12 Coronado in the first round.
“The vibe is good,” Raptors head coach Ryan Beavers said. “We’ve been on the upswing for the past few weeks with an exceptional young team. We’ve had Maddie Keuhl to pace the way but we’re excited about how we’ve played a little better as time goes on. The expectation at Silver Creek is always that we get there and once you’re playing with house money. We’re ready to compete and now we just line them up and play the games.
“You just hope it’s your day when it counts.”