AURORA | There will be no mystery when the Smoky Hill softball team takes the field at the Aurora Sports Park Friday to open the Class 5A state softball tournament.
Aurora’s lone qualifier will have a very familiar opponent in the opposite dugout in Arapahoe, the only other Centennial League in the 16-team state field.
The Buffs (22-4) and Warriors (22-3) play the rubber-match of what will be a three-game season series at 12:15 p.m. with the winner moving into the 2:30 p.m. quarterfinals. Smoky Hill coach B.J. Kingsbaker
“You put your opponent on a pedestal sometimes if you don’t know them; if we would have drawn Loveland or Rock Canyon, we might go in with a lot more uncertainty,” Kingsbaker said. “We know we made a lot of errors both times we played Arapahoe, so that was on us.
“I think the familiarity calms down a really stressful situation.”
Indeed errors were the common denominator for Smoky Hill in both its 13-6 non-league win on Sept. 7 and its 9-3 loss in the Centennial League opener Sept. 21 (a defeat that ultimately decided the league championship). The Buffs committed four errors in their win and four more in their loss.
Should the miscues get cleaned up, Smoky Hill believes it can generate plenty of offense. The Buffaloes have scored 298 runs on the season, a whopping 44 more than the next-prolific team, top-seeded Rock Canyon, which has tallied 254.
Smoky Hill’s offense had differing success against Arapahoe ace Kayleigh Krueger, the Centennial League’s Player of the Year. The Buffs had 11 hits — two apiece from Izzy Giroux, Yasmine Ybarra, Paris Elsberry and Jahlisa Klear — and scored 13 runs the first time, but had just three (two by Giroux and one by Ybarra, who homered in both games) in the rematch.
Coming off Region 2 performance in which they homered seven times and scored a total of 34 runs in three games (wins over Fountain-Fort Carson and Fruita Monument and a loss to Fossil Ridge), Smoky Hill’s offense seems to be in a good place.
“The stats bear themselves out; we’re scored more runs than any of the other 15 teams and we’re the best hitting team in the state,” Kingsbaker said. “Sometimes, we just need to slow the game down and realize we can play with anybody.”
Izzy Giroux and Ybarra have each homered eight times and sophomore Amrajie Bass has left the yard six times, while 22 of Giroux’s 43 hits have gone for extra bases and she is the team leader in RBI (41), with Ybarra at 37 and Bass at 35.
On the mound, Smoky Hill has sophomores Delaney Farnsworth, Kenedy Sandoval and Paris Elsberry healthy and at his disposal, with the ability to match up in many ways. Arapahoe tends to stick exclusively with Krueger, who is 20-3 with a 1.72 ERA.
A win would put Smoky Hill into a 2:30 p.m. quarterfinal against either No. 3 Rocky Mountain (22-3) and No. 14 Arvada West (13-13).
The Buffaloes lost to the Lobos 2-0, but Kingsbaker noted they had runners in scoring position in four of the seven innings, while they did not face Arvada West.
Courtney Oakes is Sentinel Colorado Sports Editor. Reach him at 303-750-7555 or [email protected]: @aurorasports. IG: Sentinel Prep Sports
2019 CLASS 5A STATE SOFTBALL TOURNAMENT
First round, Oct. 25 at Aurora Sports Park
Game 1: No. 16 Ralston Valley (10-16) vs. No. 1 Rock Canyon (24-1), 10 a.m.
Game 2: No. 9 Loveland (23-3) vs. No. 8 Brighton (19-5-1), 10 a.m.
Game 3: No. 13 Legend (15-11) vs. No. 4 Broomfield (21-4), 10 a.m.
Game 4: No. 12 Lakewood (19-7) vs. No. 5 Fossil Ridge (20-5), 10 a.m.
Game 5: No. 14 Arvada West (13-13) vs. No. 3 Rocky Mountain (22-3), 12:15 p.m.
Game 6: NO. 11 SMOKY HILL (22-4) vs. No. 6 Arapahoe (22-3), 12:15 p.m.
Game 7: No. 15 Valor Christian (13-12) vs. No. 2 Columbine (23-2), 12:15 p.m.
Game 8: No. 10 Chatfield (21-5) vs. No. 7 Legacy (17-8), 12:15 p.m.
Quarterfinals, Oct. 25
Game 1 winner vs. Game 2 winner, 2:30 p.m.
Game 3 winner vs. Game 4 winner, 2:30 p.m.
Game 5 winner vs. Game 6 winner, 2:30 p.m.
Game 7 winner vs. Game 8 winner, 2:30 p.m.
Semifinals, Oct. 26
Upper bracket winners, 10 a.m.
Lower bracket winners, 10 a.m.
Championship, Oct. 26
Semifinals winners, 1:30 p.m.