There’d rarely been a freshman season like the one Holy Family’s Isabella Arroyo pieced together last fall.
Treating the Class 4A Tigers to a perfect 18-0 record on the mound, plus a sub-2 ERA, Arroyo was the fresh-faced wunderkind joining a program already well into its dynasty run.
Though, it might as well have been a winning lottery ticket bought in Beverly Hills with her team cashing it in with its third title in four years.
Today, with Arroyo eligible to return for her sophomore season, the equilibrium of sport says sooner or later her lumps will come on the mound. The real question remaining for one of the most intriguing players in the state in 2022 is not whether a player of her caliber is infallible — only how timing, and to what degree she can be proven mortal on the playing field going forward.
This fall, Colorado’s softball royalty returns standouts like Arroyo, dynasties in her Tigers and 5A Legend, and a third-year varsity team in the now-4A Lutheran Lions who haven’t lost in 22 months.
Here is the Colorado Preps high school softball preview.
Cameron Ponich was more or less behind glass in 2022. Untouchable, the kind usually guarded by a smooth, velvet rope.
Down the stretch for Legend last fall, she surrendered just five earned runs over her last 42 innings. In an eighth straight complete-game performance, the then-junior capped her season allowing five hits, no runs while striking out 12 in an 8-0 state title victory over Columbine, giving the Titans their third title in five years.
Her end-of-the-year stat line read 15-4, with a 1.45 ERA.
“I thought we had a chance to win it from the start of the season because we have such a good team dynamic,” she told CHSAANow.com after recording the season’s final out. “I really felt like we stepped it up during state and we were on a whole new level than we were during the regular season.”
Ponich, projected to lead the Parker school again in 2022, as it goes for its fourth title since 2017, is one of the classification’s three first-team, all-state players who are expected to return.
Legend teammate Kaylynn English is a senior shortstop who hit .563 and drove in 21 runs last season.
Columbine’s Araya Ogden, also a senior, struck out 215 batters in 162 innings. She began that year with a seven-inning, 10-strikeout no-hitter.
From the second team on the all-state list, Rock Canyon shortstop Sydney Boulaphinh is eligible to return after she hit .562 and drove in 22 as a sophomore.
Holy Family is climbing up the sport’s championship leaderboard: Make that three titles since 2018. Four overall.
Another softball championship this fall for the Tigers would put them in a tie for third with Strasburg all-time. (Maybe as important to its purple-cladded loyalists, it’d be one step closer to rival Erie, which has the state’s most at 12.)
Of course, that’s premature with CHSAA’s first pitch still days away.
In 2022, Holy Family is expected to welcome back Arroyo, who had more strikeouts (136) than allowed hits, earned runs and home runs combined (127) — but much of the rest of the core from last year will look different.
Its Triple-A reliable offense of 4A player of the year Abby Edwards and first-team all-state players Ava Kuszak and Annika Manzanares graduated. Meaning, the team’s underclass from 2021 — standouts like Makaila Moosbrugger (23 RBIs in 2021) and Jordan Peterson (22 RBIs) — will have to step into place as leaders of the team.
D’Evelyn also looks promising after finishing runner-up — especially with the hopeful return of first-team infielder Peyton Marvel, who hit .509 with 10 home runs and 25 extra-base hits as a sophomore.
Things look good for Pueblo South, too, which was the second-ranked team during the regular season before it was upended in the opening round of the playoffs. The Colts should get back first-team pitcher Emily Abraham. She held opponents to a .189 batting average while posting a 22-3 record last fall.
And then there’s the 4A newbie, Lutheran. It joins the classification after going a perfect 29-0 last year in 3A, outscoring teams 388-23. (No really).
Expected back for the Lions is the coach’s daughter and 3A player of the year Hailey Maestretti, who went 28-0 on the mound and allowed just nine earned runs to 268 strikeouts. She hit .554, driving in 36 with 18 extra-base hits.
Maestretti is projected to be rejoined by talented 3A first-team infielders Meredith Barnhart and Faith Byler. Barnhart hit a class-leading 12 bombs (three more than the next) and drove in a 3A-most 65 runs (10 more than second) while hitting .609. Byler hit .487 with 37 RBIs.
For those who take pleasure in piece-by-piece builds, like model boats constructed in a wine bottle, Lutheran really shouldn’t have been that good in just its second year as a varsity program.
With 22 wins by double figures last season, the rest of the classification might very well be glad to see them go. (See ya!)
Yes, there will be a new 3A champ in 2022 with Lutheran’s departure to 4A.
Last year’s runner-up, University, looks good on paper. The Greeley school has two potential returning 3A first-team players in pitcher/first baseman Addison Harding and shortstop Kaden Wyatt.
As a freshman last year, Harding drove in 55 runs and went 18-4 on the mound. Wyatt, touting a three-year batting average of .500, drove in 35 and hit four homers, and is also just five run-knocks away from joining the rare, high school 100 RBI club.
As for other first teamers thought to be back, semifinalist Sterling should return now-senior pitcher Reagan Fehringer. As a junior, she allowed more than three earned runs in just two of her 26 appearances on the mound in 2021. She finished with a 1.40 ERA and hit .482 with 31 runs driven in.
Brush, meanwhile, should get back on-base-machine Braelynn Rule. She had 31 hits in 75 at-bats last season.
From 3A’s second team, Eaton’s infielder Blayke Duncan and INF/P Sadie Ross can return as can Limon’s 1B/P Paige Hutsell and P/C Brynlyn Owens.
Prior to Lutheran’s championship last season, the previous three title winners in the classification went: Eaton (2020), University (2019) and Strasburg (2017-18).
First official practices for all classifications commenced Monday. Games are scheduled to begin Aug. 11.