high school softball stock photo

File, The Gazette

Banners are strewn all across the Coronado gym — all red, with years of title-worthy campaigns tattered across the fabric. 

The softball team wanted its chance to be a part of the school's history. Only two years ago, the Cougars reached the state playoffs and added a league title. 

Coronado's 16-4 win over Widefield on the road Tuesday clinched another year: 2021. The seniors, parents and others in the program who convinced coach Conrad Gonzales to come back after a year away from the program had their hopes realized.

"Winning this game meant winning league, so we wanted to run the score up quickly," senior Ella Leischer said. "There's a curse on this field for Coronado."

The field in question is the Widefield Parks and Recreation softball field that the Gladiators call home. It'd been over a decade since the Cougars were able to win against Widefield on the road. 

Leischer did her best to end the streak early. On the game's second pitch, she roped a line drive to center field that hit the top railing of the fence and bounced over for her fourth home run of the year. 

She was moved to the leadoff spot two weeks ago after Gonzales looked over the stats and saw she was leading the league in on-base percentage. 

In the time since, the Cougars have won six consecutive games and have yet to drop a league contest. 

"I told the girls, whether we're on offense or defense, you start from the beginning — stay on top from the start," Gonzales said. "Just keep scoring until the game's over." 

The Cougars did just that. Their bats scratched across a run, or multiple, in every frame. Both senior Savannah Starr and Baily LeGere also hit home runs, both to center field as well. 

The three home runs are the first Coronado has hit out of the park at Widefield in Gonzales' 12 years with the club. 

A league title is great, as is the banner the Cougars will get to update. But, the small errors made in the win are what could hold them back. As games have gone on, the players and coaches have noticed a subtle drop in intensity, resulting in more miscues. 

Once again Tuesday, Starr made a pair of errors in the sixth inning. She made up for it in the following inning with her aforementioned sixth long ball of the year.

The Cougars also made errors on possible double-play balls in both of the final two frames. The lead made sure they didn't hurt too much, but Gonzales knows his team can be better. 

"We have to be a complete team," Gonzales said. "We can't just be an offensive- or defensive-minded team. I try to tell them that you can't fall asleep during the game. You have to think the ball is coming your way." 

Defense is an emphasis in Coronado practices, so the wrinkles still have time to be ironed out. The title isn't enough, though. Gonzales wants to go undefeated against the league, which wraps up with matchups at home against Canon City and away against Palmer. 

For Tuesday, they'll enjoy the spoils of hard work. Wednesday, it'll be back to trying to update a different banner. 

The state titles banner. 

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