Note: For more photos from Lisa Hayes, click here.

Pueblo East senior Mariah Gonzales is fanning batters at a laughable rate this fall — in fact, more than 50 percent of the hitters she’s faced this season (224 of 446) have gone down on strikes.

With the regular season done in three days, it’s time to start talking about postseason softball in Colorado.

Which means it’s time to start chatting about pitching.

With regionals next weekend, the state tournament the following, an electric arm like Gonzales’ could very well spur a deep postseason run. The mound, like a buoy out all on its own, is where title hopes often sink or float.

A year ago, each classification champion — from Legend to Holy Family to Lutheran — had a lights-out ace leading the way. Cameron Ponich, Isabella Arroyo and Hailey Maestretti are now back for their respective teams this fall.

Below let’s look at some of the top and underrated pitchers from each classification.


Class 5A

Top names: Columbine’s Araya Ogden and Legend’s Cameron Ponich were all-state selections a season ago and will undoubtedly be again this season.

Ogden (16-1), a year after going 21-3 with a 2.25 ERA, has been even better this fall, posting a 1.03 ERA and 134 strikeouts in 102 1/3 inning pitched.

Ponich (13-4) has a nearly identical line: A 1.05 ERA in 93 1/3 innings. Ponich has struck out 135, Ogden 134.

The Columbine ace won her first 16 decisions of the season for the No. 1 Rebels before taking her first loss in a 2-0 loss to No. 2 Douglas County Tuesday. Freshman Macee Taylor’s two-run home run in the second inning was her lone mistake as she allowed just two hits in six strong innings. Douglas County’s Marina Tinari (8-2) got the win, giving up just three hits in seven spotless frames.

Ponich, meanwhile, got her fourth straight win for No. 4 Legend Monday, allowing two unearned runs in a 7-2 win over Mountain Vista. She struck out 12, her third time in four appearances with 12 or more Ks.

Underrated: Erie’s Gracie Sackett (10-0) hasn’t lost, nor has she allowed more than one earned run in 14 of her 16 appearances.

Sackett leads the team with the longest winning streak in the state at 17 games. She has more strikeouts (92) than she’s allowed hits (49), walks (20) and earned runs (seven) combined. She has also yet to allow a homer in 289 batters faced.

And maybe even best of all, she has a No. 2 in Matix Hull (6-0) that has been every bit as good. Hull has allowed two earned runs in 30 innings pitched this fall.

“Matix keeps the ball low and mixes speeds and Gracie throws a bit harder,” Erie coach Tobin EchoHawk said of the two. “So, when you have them back-to-back, I don’t know if hitters can make adjustments that quickly,”

Class 4A

Top names: Lutheran’s Hailey Maestretti (20-1) was the 3A player of the year a season ago and has made a pretty clear case to take the top prize in 4A this season.

The junior’s season can be summed up in two parts:

In 20 of her 21 appearances, she’s been nearly untouchable. Lots of whiffs, lots of zeros. No one can keep up.

Then there was that game against Windsor last month. In the Lions’ only loss in two years, she allowed eight of her season’s 13 earned runs. An outlier to this point for the best player on the classification’s best team.

The other top name is Holy Family’s Isabella Arroyo (9-2).

The defending champs have kept their ace’s innings relatively low in the regular season at 80 1/3. With it, the sophomore has struck out 112 and hasn’t allowed more than an earned run in any appearance since August.

From the freshman who led her team to their third title in four years last fall, she can add to her legacy in the next two weeks.

Underrated: Pueblo East’s Mariah Gonzales (13-7) is having a breakout season for the ages. The Eagles, just outside the rankings, will need it to continue to make any kind of deep postseason run.

After posting a 5.13 ERA last season, Gonzales has a 1.33 ERA this fall and is second in state strikeouts with 224. (Sand Creek’s Keira Gray has 251).

In her start Tuesday, she punched out a career-best 17 in an 11-2 win over city rival Pueblo Centennial.

Class 3A

Top names: Strasburg’s Heidi Price (12-2) has led her team to the top of the 3A rankings just in time for regionals. Her ERA of 1.58 is best among all pitchers in the class with at least 55 innings pitched.

Sterling’s Reagan Fehringer (14-7), meanwhile, has three starts in which she’s given up five or more runs this season. In 13 of 21 appearances though, she’s allowed one or no earned runs.

Neither leads the class in wins, though. That belongs to The Academy’s Isabella Bruntz (17-4).

The senior also has three no-hitters for the eighth-ranked team.

Underrated: No. 5 Lamar’s pitching duo of Delorin Bellomy (10-1) and Mariah Sigala (7-4).

Both have ERA’s hovering 2 with Bellomy at 2.18 in 54 2/3 innings pitched and Sigla 2.26 in 62.

The two, along with four innings pitched from Chloe Weber, have combined to hold opponents to a .197 batting average this season.

If that holds over the next two weeks, they’ll be contenders.