AURORA -- After a year away, Legacy’s softball team is back on top of the Class 5A mountain.
The Lightning won their sixth title in seven years, edging Legend 6-4 at a chilly Aurora Sports Park on Sunday.
“We see everybody’s Sunday best,” Legacy coach Dawn Gaffin, who has been the head of the Lightning softball program for 14 years. “Everybody comes to play us. People from other teams line up on the other side and cheer against us, and we are getting used to it. We set this goal at the beginning of the year, every year. We don’t think about anything else, except this. We know it is a progression. Even though we lost five games I would say we probably played the toughest schedule in the state. We didn’t get rewarded for that, but I didn’t care where we were seeded because we have to play everybody anyway.”
Legacy, which was seeded No. 5 in the 16-team state tourney, ended its season with a 21-5 record. Legend (20-6), which started playing varsity sports in 2009, was trying to win the school’s first state team title.
“They put the bat on the ball and put pressure on us,” Legend coach Shelly Boyd said. “They are experienced and have been here before and they are a much older team than we are. We are a very young team. We started three freshmen and a sophomore out there.”
Legend’s varsity softball program had compiled a 31-36 record since its inception before its 2013 breakout season.
Legacy moved into the state championship game by edging Brighton 5-3 in the semifinals Sunday morning. Legend muscled past Fossil Ridge 9-4.
Legend actually jumped out to quick 1-0 lead on Kaley Garcia’s RBI single in the top of the third inning. Garcia brought home Steph Cardona who doubled.
“I felt like falling behind kind of lit a fire under us,” Legacy pitcher Haley Smith, a junior, said. “We started hitting the ball.”
Legacy’s offense came alive in the bottom of the fourth, scoring four runs on four hits. The Lightning’s Shania Leon had an RBI single and Jordan Sheard brought home another run on a squeeze bunt.
“At this point it is just muscle memory,” said Leon, a senior, about her hit which sparked the Lightning’s offense. “You just have to calm the adrenaline down and then let it take over. We are pretty confident. We have amazing coaches who led us this far.”
In the sixth inning, thanks to some Legend miscues Legacy took a 6-1 advantage. Those two insurance runs proved to be crucial as Legend’s Karlee Arnold blasted a three-run homer to get the Titans within 6-4 in the seventh.
“I wasn’t nervous after that three-run homer,” Smith said. “I knew we had one out and we just had to go back to work. This is crazy (to win another state title). It is indescribable, the feeling after you win.”
Leon also was thrilled to help her team back on the 5A prep throne.
“Every year is a different year,” Leon said. “We have to start off the same as any other team. No team has it from the beginning, you have to work hard. This team just meshed together.”