Aurora had a treasure trove of talent during the 2016 softball season and it shone brightly in the biggest moments.
City teams made up half of the final four teams in the Class 5A state softball tournament — Cherokee Trail and Eaglecrest — and both of those local programs were fueled by exceptional talent.
Five members of the eventual 5A state champion Cougars lead the way on the first unit of the 2016 Aurora Sentinel All-Aurora Softball Team, which was selected by the Sentinel in conjunction with balloting of city coaches.
Five hungry seniors were important driving forces behind Cherokee Trail’s championship run and four of them — pitchers Emily Bell and Audrey Pickett, outfielder Chloe Knapp and first baseman Skylar Higens — earned All-Aurora first team honors along with junior outfielder Alyssa Pinto.
In the 1-0 win over Broomfield in the 5A state final, Bell pitched all eight innings and scattered four hits against a potent Eagles’ offense, while Knapp (who sent the Cougars into the semifinals with a walk-off grand slam) belted a solo shot for the only run of the game in the top of the eighth inning.
Higens was a big part of a sparkling defensive effort and had two of her team’s four hits in the final and Pinto’s full out diving catch of a line drive blunted a potential rally in the fourth inning.
While not called up to pitch in the final, Pickett teamed with Bell to give Cherokee Trail an unbelievable 1-2 pitching combination and she led the Centennial League in ERA (1.58).
Eaglecrest dropped an 11-8 decision to Cherokee Trail in the semifinals to end a 19-5 season that was accomplished with underclassmen playing the majority of the time.
The Raptors’ last gasp hope in the semis came with sophomore infielder Rachel Sabourin at the plate, but her foul pop up was caught by Knapp to end the game. Sabourin had hoped for one more swing in a season that saw her become the only Aurora player in double figures in home runs with 11. She was at or near the top of the Centennial League in most offensive categories.
Junior Braelyne Crenshaw played a crucial role at the plate and on the mound for the Raptors, as she added more pop to the lineup, hit well in the clutch and led the team in victories on the mound. She was Eaglecrest’s most effective arm in the postseason.
Grandview and Smoky Hill — Aurora’s two other regional qualifiers — both possessed considerable talent as well, though both lost some significant pieces to graduation from teams that made the state tournament in 2015.
Senior outfielder Terran Caldwell and junior infielder Sophie Herrera provided the leadership the youthful Wolves desperately needed and both also played at a first team All-Centennial League level. Juniors Kayla Banks (utility) and Emilie Roberts (catcher) did the same thing for the Buffaloes.
Sophomore Jackie Cal took over main pitching duties for Regis Jesuit early in the year, earned all five of the Raiders’ wins and posted a 3.75 ERA plus an Aurora-best 83 strikeouts in 93 1/3 innings.
Senior Megan Godfrey transferred to Vista PEAK and became a force for the Bison, which earned double-digit wins. Godfrey sported a batting average above .600 that ranked in the top-five in 4A and she recorded at least one base hit in all but one game she played in, while she helped provide a veteran presence on a team with significant youth.
Courtney Oakes is Aurora Sentinel Sports Editor. Reach him at 303-750-7555 or [email protected] Twitter: @aurorasports. FB: Aurora Prep Sentinel
2016 AURORA SENTINEL ALL-AURORA SOFTBALL TEAM
Pitcher: Emily Bell, Cherokee Trail, sr.; Audrey Pickett, Cherokee Trail, sr.; Jackie Cal, Regis Jesuit, soph.; Catcher: Emilie Roberts, Smoky Hill, jr.; Infield: Megan Godfrey, Vista PEAK, sr.; Sophie Herrera, Grandview, jr.; Skylar Higens, Cherokee Trail, sr. (1B); Rachel Sabourin, Eaglecrest, soph.; Outfield: Terran Caldwell, Grandview, sr.; Chloe Knapp, Cherokee Trail, sr.; Alyssa Pinto, Cherokee Trail, jr.; Utility: Kayla Banks, Smoky Hill, jr.; Braelyn Crenshaw, Eaglecrest, jr.
Pitcher: Ayla Davis, Vista PEAK, jr.; Kathleen Ingram, Eaglecrest, sr.; Ashley Vallejos, Grandview, soph.; Catcher: Megan Medhus, Cherokee Trail, jr.; Infield: Delanie Cox, Cherokee Trail, soph.; Lexi Gillen, Cherokee Trail, jr.; Erin Pendleton, Regis Jesuit, jr.; Morgan Quimby, Grandview, jr.; Outfield: Emily Botkin, Smoky Hill, jr.; Hunter Kincaid, Vista PEAK, sr.; Rylee Waggoner, Eaglecrest, soph.; Utility: Brandee Morris, Eaglecrest, jr.; Malena Murillo, Smoky Hill, sr.
Shayelyn Allen, Eaglecrest, soph.; Birungi Balijahe, Aurora Central, jr.; Laura Blackwood, Vista PEAK, sr.; Dani Chaney, Vista PEAK, soph.; Rosario Garcia, Aurora Central, sr.; Bailey Garrison, Aurora Central, soph.; Selena Gochenour, Rangeview, sr.; Mackenzie Hochstetler, Eaglecrest, jr.; Jacqueline Ley, Grandview, fr.; Izzy Macias, Regis Jesuit, soph.; Savanna Martinez, Overland, sr.; Taryn Moan, Grandview, soph.; Sonoma Olson, Cherokee Trail, sr.; Seanaray Pacheco, Rangeview, sr.; Madison Rivas, Overland, sr.; Jasmin Sanchez, Vista PEAK, sr.; Amy Vallejos, Grandview, soph.; Taylor Warne, Cherokee Trail, jr.; Laurel Wilson, Smoky Hill, sr.