SOFT­BALL PHE­NOM

Columbine’s Otis is a fresh­man

The Denver Post - - SPORTS - Kyle New­man: 303-954-1773 knew­man@den­ver­post.com or @Kyle­new­mandp By Kyle New­man

There will be no fly­ing un­der the radar this fall for Columbine fresh­man pitcher Korbe Otis, the state’s top up-and-com­ing prep soft­ball player who com­mit­ted to the Univer­sity of Louisville as an eighth grader.

Otis’ pres­ence in the cir­cle (5-2 with a 3.35 ERA) and in the box (she’s hit­ting a team­lead­ing .667 with 12 RBIS and 8 dou­bles) has al­ready placed No. 9 Columbine (8-4) into the early Class 5A cham­pi­onship dis­cus­sion.

The 14-year-old’s 62 mph drop­ball — in con­junc­tion with an ef­fec­tive change, rise­ball, and screw­ball — has her sit­ting down hit­ters left and right. Her 63 strike­outs rank sixth in the clas­si­fi­ca­tion.

“She’s a phe­nom, for sure,” first-year Columbine head coach Jim San­taniello said. “She’s con­tribut­ing both of­fen­sively and de­fen­sively, which is im­pres­sive to see from any fresh­man, but most im­por­tantly, her tough­ness and lead­er­ship have stood out early in the sea­son.”

And be­yond the state’s bor­ders, Otis re­cently joined the Corona An­gels, one of the na­tion’s top club soft­ball pro­grams based out of South­ern Cal­i­for­nia that she plans to play for each sum­mer un­til she heads off to Louisville.

But Otis has the long-sight­ed­ness to re­al­ize that while her prep ca­reer is off to a blaz­ing start, tal­ent alone won’t take her where she wants to go if she doesn’t work on her craft.

“I do like the hype,” Otis said. “But I’m never go­ing to be­lieve it, be­cause that never gets you any­where.”

Be­yond her as­pi­ra­tions to lead Columbine to its first state cham­pi­onship, Otis aims to one day win a ti­tle at Louisville, too, a pro­gram she com­mit­ted to early in the re­cruit­ing process de­spite gar­ner­ing in­ter­est from other top-tier Di­vi­sion I pro­grams such as Stan­ford, Cal, UCLA and LSU.

“My im­me­di­ate goals are to get a lot stronger as a player — both men­tally, in terms of hav­ing more knowl­edge about the game, and phys­i­cally, in terms of be­ing able to com­mand my pitches bet­ter and throw harder,” Otis said. “I want to be the best player I can be when I en­ter Louisville, and use my four years there to try to win the Women’s Col­lege World Se­ries.”

Com­pli­ment­ing Otis’ tal­ents in Lit­tle­ton this sea­son is the steadi­ness of se­nior cap­tains Me­lanie Lopez and Erin Smith. The Rebels took run­ner-up in the Plat­inum Bracket at their own Dave San­ders Tour­na­ment at Aurora Sports Park last week­end — a promis­ing sign as Columbine rides a wave of mo­men­tum into its Jef­fco League de­but at Dakota Ridge on Sept. 22.

“Our con­fi­dence is high at this time, which is re­ally good as we head into league play,” Otis said. “Now we just need to use that con­fi­dence to keep rolling through league, and to be where we want come late Oc­to­ber.”

What­ever ends up hap­pen­ing the rest of the way this fall, it’s bound to be only a pre­lim­i­nary chap­ter in a soft­ball ca­reer that has all the early mak­ings of great­ness.

“Her in­tan­gi­bles are un­be­liev­able,” said Corona An­gels coach and founder Marty Tyson, who over the past 18 years has worked with the na­tion’s top prep soft­ball tal­ent. “With her work ethic, her en­ergy and her ath­leti­cism, the sky is the limit to what she’s go­ing to be able to achieve.”

John Leyba, The Den­ver Post

Columbine fresh­man Korbe Otis has had a big hand — both in the cir­cle and in the box — in her team’s suc­cess this year.

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