BROOMFIELD -- Haley Smith spoke of her right knee strain as some sort of minor glitch. Legacy softball coach Dawn Gaffin offered no such restraint.
"It was bad," Gaffin said Saturday.
Smith, after all, missed the Lightning's final five games of the regular season, including a key Front Range League matchup at Loveland that LHS ended up losing 15-4.
But there the powerful sophomore pitcher was Saturday, taking the mound for the first time in exactly three weeks to help lift her team to a pair of regional tournament wins and a Class 5A state tournament berth at Broomfield Industrial Park.
Smith threw three no-hit innings -- combining with reliever Shania Leon for a five-inning no-hitter -- in a 12-0 victory over Westminster. And she then hung tough for a complete game win in an 11-5 triumph over ThunderRidge as the Lightning kept alive their hopes of a state-record-tying sixth straight state title.
"Shania comes in and does a great job for us, too," Gaffin said. "But Haley's a force to contend with."
Smith, who improved her record to 12-0-2 on Saturday, struck out six in each of her outings. But victory No. 2 didn't come without its tense moments.
The top-seeded Lightning (17-2-2) led No. 16 ThunderRidge (13-9) 6-1 heading into a more than hour-long rain delay between the fourth and fifth innings. But the Grizzlies roared to life in the top of the fifth with four runs on four hits against Smith to cut Legacy's advantage to 6-5.
But the Lightning, who'd scored five runs in the fourth before the delay, tacked on five more in the bottom of the fifth to thwart ThunderRidge's rally. And Smith continued with her dominance, recording 1-2-3 innings in the sixth and seventh just as she'd done in the second, third and fourth.
"We knew we still had our chance to hit," Smith said of the Lightning's mindset following ThunderRidge's rally. "I think it just got us going more."
The Lightning, after all, are in Year 5 of wearing the defending champion's target on their backs. Yet even when the sharks have been circling in recent years, the Lightning have come together at the right times to keep their title run going anyway. They've reached the 16-team state tournament every since 2003.
Several Lightning players turned in solid production offensively Saturday. Paige Reichmuth and Celyn Whitt both contributed two-run singles in the Lightning's fifth inning against ThunderRidge.
Whitt, the smallest player on the field, turned in the biggest day at the plate. She went 2 for 2 with three runs scored and three driven in against Westminster, and then added two more hits and four more RBIs against ThunderRidge.
The sophomore said the Lightning are definitely entering the state tournament with chips on their shoulders.
"We are out to prove something," Whitt said. "We may not have the (former Lightning stars) Rainey Gaffin and Jessica Ball. But all of us together is everything we need."
Follow Josh on Twitter: @JoshLindenstein
LEGACY 12, WESTMINSTER 0
At Broomfield Industrial Park
Westminster 000 00 -- 0 0 1
Legacy 502 5x -- 12 10 1
W -- Smith. L -- Kennedy.
Westminster hitting (ab-r-h-rbi) -- Micuculli 0-2, Taylor 0-2, Kennedy 0-2, Muniz 0-2, Roper 0-2, Austin 0-2, Doell 0-2, Rodriguez 0-1, Macias 0-1.
Legacy hitting (ab-r-h-rbi) -- Prokaski 3-2-2-0, Reichmuth 3-0-0-0, Smith 1-1-0-0, Leon 1-0-1-1, Romo 0-1-0-0, Archuleta 2-3-2-1, Whitt 2-3-2-3, Barnard 3-2-2-2, Howard 1-0-1-1, Latham 2-0-0-0, Ertle 0-0-0-0, Walling 2-0-0-0, Carress 1-0-0-0.
Legacy pitching (ip-h-r-er-bb-k) -- Smith 3-0-0-0-6, Leon 2-0-0-0-0-2.
LEGACY 11, THUNDERRIDGE 5
At Broomfield Industrial Park
ThunderRidge 100 040 0 -- 5 6 3
Legacy 100 550 x -- 11 10 2
W -- Smith. L -- Hatten.
ThunderRidge hitting (ab-r-h-rbi) -- Ballard 4-1-1-2, Whitefoot 3-2-2-1, Leiker 3-0-1-0, Hamilton 3-0-1-0, Smith 3-0-0-0, Susaoka 3-0-0-0, Hoffman 3-0-0-0, Sweifel 2-1-0-0, Del Toro 3-1-1-0, Hatten 0-0-0-0, Archer 0-0-0-0. 2B -- Ballard. SB -- Whitefoot.
Legacy hitting (ab-r-h-rbi) -- Prokaski 3-2-2-1, Reichmuth 3-1-1-2, Whitt 4-0-2-4, Smith 4-0-0-0, Ertle 0-1-0-0, Archuleta 3-1-1-0, Barnard 3-0-1-0, Brothers 0-1-0-0, Howard 3-1-1-0, Walling 4-2-2-1, Carress 2-0-0-0, Romo 0-2-0-0. 2B -- Prokaski.
ThunderRidge pitching (ip-h-r-er-bb-k) -- Hatten 4.2-9-11-6-2-1, Archer 1.1-1-0-0-0-0. HB -- Hatten.
Legacy pitching (ip-h-r-er-bb-k) -- Smith 7-6-5-4-1-6.