Cameron Ponich, softball pitcher for Legend High School in Parker, has a habit of picking up a little dirt before delivering a pitch.
Ponich was not only picking up dirt and wiping it off before each pitch, she was also wiping out batters for Highlands Ranch’s Rock Canyon High School in an 8-0 Continental League shutout victory on Sept. 8 at Legend.
“I’ve been doing it for so long, it’s just a habit of mine and a superstition,” Ponich explained of her custom of grabbing a little dirt.
The junior right-hander scattered just five hits and struck out 15 batters as the Titans, ranked fourth in the Class 5A CHSAANow.com poll, improved their overall record to 9-3.
Ponich kept her rise ball low against the Jaguars of Rock Canyon, which made her curveball and screwball more effective, and the league strikeout leader raised her total to 86 strikeouts in 59.1 innings pitched.
Ponich surrendered two hits and a walk in the third inning as Rock Canyon loaded the bases but she got the third out of the frame on a ground ball to second base.
“Usually I use my rise ball because it’ll make them go under the ball when they swing,” she said. “My favorite pitch is the curveball.”
Ponich had two hits and drove in a run in Legend’s nine-hit attack.
“I don’t usually hit for my non high school (club) team but I like hitting so I come through a little bit and I get hits sometimes,” said Ponich. “It was really important to win, especially since it was our first league game, and it sets the tone for the rest of the season and the rest of the league games.”
Legend’s junior shortstop Kaylynn English went 2-for-3 with a double and triple. She scored twice and raised her team-leading batting average to .614 Emma Harrington also had two hits for the Titans.
“I could definitely sense that she was on,” said Legend coach Kristen Shirk when asked about Ponich. “We talked before the game to see how she was feeling and she said she was ready to go. Her stuff was moving, which is always a plus.”
Legend won back-to-back state softball titles in 2017 and 2018, which is a reminder for this year’s team.
“I told the girls the other day, this is a brand new (Continental League) season,” said Shirk. “We want to win (championship) banners. We want to fill the gym with banners. Conference is the first step. We use our non-conference to figure out things and we are really young this year. We only have two seniors.
“We have done quite well in our non-conference. I hope we continue to grow. At times we see our youth but then we see some brilliant things that can happen.”
Rock Canyon is also a young team. The two-time defending league champions who were the top-seeded team in last season’s state tournament saw its record dip to 6-6.
“We’ve come from a position of significant experience and ability to significant inexperience and a lot of potential,” said coach Michael DeSimone. “We have moments when we can see that brilliance and unfortunately some times when we are learning.”
Senior Kristen Remley had two of Rock Canyon’s hits while Savannah Avery, Sydney Boulaphinh and Sloane Sprague had the other three hits for the Jaguars, who went 60-11 over the past three seasons.
“We’ve built a legacy,” said DeSimone, who had just four seniors suited up for the Legend game. “We worked hard for many years to build this up and we can’t lower the standards because we’re not ready for the moment. We’ll continue to build and get better. We’re such a tale of two teams. They are great kids and they know what they have to do.”
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