After collecting the final out in their 3A Region 3 opening victory over Peak-to-Peak, the Montezuma-Cortez panthers kept their celebrations subdued. They still had business to attend to – a regional championship contest against district rival Delta.
It wasn’t until the bus ride home that reality finally began to set in. The Panthers were on their way to the 3A State Championship Tournament.
“I’m still not sure if it’s sunk in yet,” said senior Mandy McAfee. “To finally get to go here in my senior year means a lot.”
A 9-3 victory over 19-seed Peak-to-Peak Pumas assured the Panthers that their name would be etched into the bracket for the season-culminating tournament.
M-CHS (13-9) pounced on the Pumas right out of the gate, posting four runs in the opening inning. Junior pitcher Presley Frost kept posting zeros on the scoreboard as the Panthers tacked on single runs in the second and fourth innings.
“Presley really started well,” said McAfee, “and that really settled the whole team.”
Frost ran into her only major trouble in the top of the sixth, when Peak-to-Peak cut the deficit in half with three runs, making the score 6-3. However, the Panthers responded with three runs of their own in the bottom half of the frame, giving M-CHS a cushion they would not relinquish.
Six Panthers collected hits on the day, led by senior Taylor Comisky’s 3-for-4 day at the plate. Comisky pounded a pair of singles and a double, while driving in two runs. McAfee and classmate Morgan Short each reached safely three times, then caused havoc as the duo stole six bases and accounted for five Panther runs.
The well-rounded Panther attack included junior Alexis Cornett adding a pair of hits and scoring twice, her sister Alyssa posting three RBIs, and junior catcher Taelynn Comisky enjoying a multi-hit day of her own.
“We played a clean game,” added McAfee, “and our whole team was really positive and supportive during the whole regional.”
Frost finished the complete-game outing with six strikeouts and walked only one, while supporting her own effort at the plate with a double.
With a spot in the state field of 16 already secure, the Panthers nearly parlayed their momentum into a regional crown. Taylor Comisky pitched a three-hitter as the Panthers battled regional-host Delta to the end, falling 3-2 in a defense-minded contest.
Montezuma-Cortez prepares for a trip to the Aurora Sports Complex, where all three softball classifications will decide their respective champions over the two-day event on Oct. 19-20. The Panthers will open 3A State Tournament play as the 15 seed, and will face off against second-seeded Eaton on Friday at 12:15 p.m.
The Reds enter the state tournament as the winners of Region 1, owning a 19-5 record and a runner-up finish in the highly competitive District 3 standings. Eaton boasts a high-powered offense that averaged over 12 runs per contest during their run to the state tournament. The winner of that opening round contest will move on to a quarterfinal date against either Limon or Rocky Ford at 2:30 p.m. State semifinal and championship contests will be played on Saturday.
For a Panthers team that will add its own legacy onto the banners that hang in the M-CHS gymnasium, McAfee hopes that the state trip will be memorable. “Our goal is to keep winning,” said McAfee, “and really enjoy the moment.”