Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer
AURORA – No one was sure what was in store for fall sports in Colorado but Holy Family softball coach Moriah Nguyen was certain of at least one thing.
If the Tigers were allowed to take the field in 2020, it would be a special group.
At Aurora Sports Park on Saturday, the Holy Family Tigers proved that to be true on the state’s biggest state by beating an historic Mead Mavericks team 9-6 in the state title game of the Class 4A state tournament. For the second time in three years, a 4A state championship trophy will find its home in the display case at Holy Family High School.
“These girls came out to fight and it ended up in our favor,” Nguyen said. “Coming into the season, everything was obviously in the unknown. But our goal, ultimately, was just excellence. We came to work every single day and these girls love the game and they want to win. That comes from deep within and they used that to get the job done.”
In the state finals, the Tigers, who also won the state title in 2018, faced a Mead team that was making the new school’s first ever appearance in a state championship game for any sport.
Holy Family (18-2) kicked off the game with a first-inning grand slam from junior catcher Abby Edwards, who went 3-for-3 at the plate. Mead (17-3) responded in the top of the second with a two-run home run from junior shortstop Maddox Boston. Ava Kuszak drove in two with a double in the bottom of the second to put Holy Family back up 6-2 before Mead’s Emily Sauvageau hit a two-run double of her own in the top of the third.
Holy Family’s Carly Eldredge drove in a run in the bottom of the third and Mead’s Allie Szablowski cut the lead to one run with a two-run homer in the top of the fourth. Holy Family pulled ahead 8-6 in the bottom of the fifth when Kuszak drove in a run with a sacrifice fly and the Tigers pushed their lead to three runs when Edwards doubled and scored on a throwing error in the sixth.
Many different Holy Family players contributed in major ways to Saturday’s state title. But in a season of uncertainty, it was fitting that an unexpected hero emerged on the final day of the Tigers’ season. Senior No. 2 pitcher Jaelen Giron allowed two runs over 7 2/3 incredibly clutch innings while closing out both the Tigers’ penultimate and final victories.
“I wasn’t expecting to pitch today,” Giron said. “Coming in with the bases loaded in the first game was a lot of pressure on me. But I guess I’ve been waiting for it the past four years I’ve been here. It feels amazing and it seems unreal that I got that chance. Nine of us are seniors, so it’s our last time and we’re really happy but a little sad at the same time. This was our goal the whole year and to get it feels so good that it’s unexplainable.”
In order to reach the state finals, the Tigers rallied for seven runs with two out in the seventh inning to win 12-7 over No. 2 D’Evelyn (17-2) in the semifinals Saturday morning. In their own riveting semifinal game, the Mavericks took down No. 1 Wheat Ridge (17-2) by hitting six home runs to win 15-9.
For the Mavericks, Saturday’s efforts didn’t produce the championship outcome they had hoped for. But they left Aurora Sports Park feeling proud that they had set a new standard for athletics at their school.
“From the beginning, we felt the chemistry was so solid and the girls genuinely enjoyed being together and playing together,” Mavericks head coach Amanda Macaluso said. “You knew that if it was going to happen, it was going to be this year. The fact that we’re breaking through at ten years of existence, we’re just super proud of this team. The leadership of our seniors, the way they controlled everything they could control, everything about this team was special.”