By CONOR NICHOLL
Columbus girls’ sports have continued to deliver school history in the last several months. In February, the Titans took third at 4-1A state wrestling in Salina. That marked the top showing for any female sport for Columbus since softball was second in 1998 and ’99, per KSHSAA archives.
Among others, the wrestling team enjoyed a third-place state showing from Addison Saporito, sixth by Jailyn Rodriguez and a 1-2 finish from Aubree Saporito. Those three have been key players for Columbus softball. The Titans went 11-10 in 2019 and 16-6 last spring.
Columbus returned all nine starters from 2021, a season that yielded two losses to Frontenac, along with to Girard and Pittsburg Colgan. The Titans lost to Galena in the regional.
Last week, Columbus won the CNC softball title for the first time with a rare win versus Frontenac that clinched the league crown. Columbus finished 17-2 in the regular season for 12th-year coach Aimee Saporito. Columbus had not defeated Frontenac in at least eight years. The Raiders went to the state tournament last spring and have two recent state championships.
Traditionally, the southeast Kansas regional is always very strong. That is the case again this year in the Baxter Springs regional. Columbus finished at 17-2, Frontenac 17-3 and Girard 16-4. Plus, Baxter Springs went 12-6 and Caney Valley was 9-7.
Every team in the regional won at least six games. In 3A, that occurred only with two regionals: Baxter and Sabetha. KSHSAA officially released sub-state matchups Wednesday afternoon. Regional play starts Monday. Columbus softball has not made state since 1999. Columbus baseball, featured on SIK several times this spring, has enjoyed a banner year with a 17-2 mark. Columbus looks for the first state baseball qualification in school annals.
Columbus softball swept Baxter, 8-2 and 5-2, on April 4. They split with 5A Pittsburg with an 8-0 win and 6-2 loss on April 19.
On April 25, the Titans swept Colgan, the two-time defending 2-1A state champion, with 7-1 and 5-0 victories. In the Colgan games, Aubree Saporito allowed two hits in seven innings in one win, and Lily Mooney struck out 10 in the other contest.
Aubree Saporito threw first-pitch strikes to 21 batters, though significantly relied on its defense. She struck out two. Columbus was 2-4 in its last six meetings versus Colgan.
On April 28, the Titans beat Girard, 3-2 and 5-1. The 3-2 win came with two runs in the top of the seventh. On May 5, Columbus split with Frontenac with a 9-8 loss and an 11-2 win. Girard had split with Frontenac. Columbus finished with one league loss, Frontenac two and Girard three.
Pittsburg High is enjoying a quality softball season with an 11-5 record as of Thursday afternoon. The Purple Dragons had permitted just 3.2 runs per game, third-fewest in 5A East. Pittsburg is currently tied with Chanute for the CNC lead.
Columbus went 0-8 against Frontenac from ’13-18, per MaxPreps archives. The Titans were 0-4 versus the Raiders combined in ’19 and ’21, according to GameChanger archives.
The Columbus starters are: center fielder Katie Simpson, Mooney at third, pitcher Aubree Saporito, first baseman Graci Major, shortstop KT Lopp, left fielder Lexy Stone, catcher Addi Saporito, right fielder Torey Tedlock and Rodriguez at second base. That lineup has stayed consistent throughout the year. Major and Tedlock are among Titans who play travel/club softball.
The Frontenac/Columbus doubleheader effectively decided the CNC crown.
Frontenac beat Columbus, 9-8, on a walk-off behind five hits from standout Heather Arnett.
In the 11-2 win versus Frontenac, Simpson and Stone both drove in three runs. Aubree Saporito had four hits, Simpson and Long each delivered three. Major and Simpson both homered. Major tossed first-pitch strikes to 18 batters and struck out 10. Columbus scored four in the top of the second and delivered 18 hits.
Major and Simpson hit homers for Columbus versus Frontenac. Stone and Mooney both started as freshmen. Columbus has posted three straight winning seasons after a 7-11 mark in 2018.
Last season, Aubree Saporito and Kaitlyn Simpson were first team all-league at pitcher and outfielder, respectively. Mooney was second team all-league pitcher, Lopp a second team all-league infielder. Major was honorable mention all-league pitcher. Last season, Frontenac was 11-1 in league, Colgan 10-2 and Columbus 7-5.
In 2021, Columbus posted four shutouts, scored 8.8 runs per game and allowed 4.4. This season, Columbus has permitted just 41 total runs, 54 under last year’s total. Columbus has six shutouts with 9.3 runs a game and 2.2 permitted, per KSHSAA numbers.