LONGMONT — Longmont softball coach Kelsey Walters could not hold back the tears, nor could she get out too many words late Saturday afternoon.
As a Trojans alum, seeing her team get the final out that ended a long drought from the state softball tournament was an overwhelming experience, one that she perhaps thought she'd react differently to.
That famous T-R-O-J-A-N-S victory chant from her team, however, loudly filled the air surrounding Garden Acres Park after Longmont had defeated both John F. Kennedy and Weld Central to qualify for the final postseason tournament next week in Aurora.
The postgame talk was short, but the Trojans (18-7-1) had no shortage of season-defining moments in the Class 4A Region 8 tournament. Falling to Weld Central by a 7-0 score to open the day, Longmont did more than just regroup. Rather, they played with the swagger of a confident squad.
"The girls showed up with grit," Walters, a 2009 graduate, said after her team beat Kennedy 17-2 and Weld Central 8-1. "This team is tenacious, and they were able to flush (Saturday's opening game) away and they just wanted to fulfill that goal of making it to state. They came back with a vengeance, for sure."
Spurred by two home runs from junior pitcher Angeline Mitchell, Longmont overcame a brief 1-0 deficit against the Commanders. The blasts may have sparked the team, but they ended up putting the hurt on JFK with an 11-run fourth inning.
Again, against the Rebels, they fell behind 1-0 in the first inning. Yet, in the top of the second frame they seized control, first getting an RBI single from Sherena Simmons to knot it at 1-1, and then a short time later sophomore Kayla-Marie Gumeson hit her first career home run, a three-run shot.
That was all the offense Mitchell really needed, but the Trojans poured it on to give her some breathing room. Weld Central sprinkled in a few baserunners over the course of the next few innings, but Mitchell didn't let anything mount against her as she won her 15th game of the season.
"For (Gumeson), as her first-ever home run that was a really great time to do it, and it was really important to get ahead early and so I was really glad we got that," Mitchell said.
"I relied on Ang a lot, I mean she pitched all three games and was phenomenal," Walters said. "The cool thing about all three games is that different people stepped up at different times. This team does that constantly, and that is cool."
Junior shortstop Ayahna Bustamante provided the perfect example of what Longmont was able to do as a team in regrouping for a rematch with the Rebels. She was moved into the leadoff spot and provided four hits and a couple of RBI's to help set a tone early and grow the lead late.
"The first game, we slumped a little bit but we came into that second game with fire," Bustamante said. "Our goal was to play for our seniors. I was just looking to hit, not really thinking of anything but wanting to hit. We've been grinding every day, and I thank our coaches and our seniors for everything they've done for us."
It may not have been the first time Longmont has qualified for state in the sport, but for all these girls along with the coaching staff, it felt a lot like history was made.
Then again, there was an air of confidence since the beginning of the season that these Trojans had the right pieces to do it.
"I'm overwhelmed with joy because I knew we could do it, but the fact that we got here and made history is just overwhelming," Mitchell said. "I'm so happy for everyone who is involved."