Daily Camera file photo
Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer
AURORA — Years from now, Colorado softball fans may look back at the year 2021 and realize that it was the beginning of a dynasty.
For the third time in just four years, the top-seeded Holy Family Tigers won the Class 4A state championship with a 10-4 win over seventh-seeded D’Evelyn. In that same time frame, they won 95 games and only dropped 10.
Seniors Abby Edwards and Ava Kuszak have been there through it all as four-year starters for the Tigers.
“Before the game, me and Ava were talking because this was the same field we won freshman year on,” Edwards said. “It’s so surreal because the seniors from our freshman year are texting us to have a good weekend. It’s just crazy that it’s gone by so fast but enjoying that we’ve had so much success in all of it.”
Sophomore Essynce Contreraz set the tone for what Holy Family’s day would bring on the very first play of its semifinal game against Riverdale Ridge when she made a diving catch in center field to rob the Ravens of what probably would have been a double.
She did it again three innings later to put an end to a Riverdale Ridge run that tied the game at 3-3. That play, and the subsequent offensive dominance of the Tigers, deflated the Ravens as Holy Family eventually won out by a 7-3 final.
The Tigers carried that momentum straight into the title matchup against No. 7 D’Evelyn later in the afternoon as a big, four-run second inning fueled their run all the way back to the pennant for the second straight year.
It helped, of course, that Izzy Arroyo was about as solid in the circle as a pitcher could possibly be. She gave up just seven runs through 14 innings and never let the pressure get to her. She finished her season 17-0 with a 1.81 ERA and 136 strikeouts.
Oh, and she’s just a freshman.
“Man, this team’s amazing. I’ll never trade this team for anything,” Arroyo said. “The intensity was there and I knew my defense had my back.”
The Holy Family bats were hot from start to finish on Saturday, as the ladies hit five home runs through the two games and three in the title game alone. Kuszak gave D’Evelyn her best when she sent two balls over the fence in her first two at-bats against the Jaguars.
“Going up in the at-bats, I just wanted to get hard, line-drive balls,” she said. “I just wanted to get on base because I wanted the person next to me to get on base. Hits are really contagious. The softball gods watch over everyone. That’s what I believe.”
The softball gods have certainly been smiling down on the Tigers for quite a while now, and don’t be surprised if they continue to do so for a while. While Holy Family may be saying goodbye to top senior talent in Kuszak, Edwards, Annika Manzanares and Kaley Anderson, they have plenty of skilled athletes like Arroyo and Contreraz to carry them forward.
Just think, Arroyo has three years left in that HFHS circle.
“The girls that we’ve been working with, they buy into the process,” head coach Moriah Nguyen said. “They work hard and come out and fight. For the kids coming back, this is a great experience for them. They know how to fight and scratch and do whatever they can to win a game.”