AURORA — There is a certain expectation that comes when you don the navy and gold for coach Dawn Gaffin's Legacy softball team.
Championship or bust.
It was the groundwork laid by the forerunners of the program that guided them to six state titles in the last decade.
The current crop of Lightning seniors understood that coming in when they were freshman, but had their struggles in the early going — even failing to make the state tournament one season.
Saturday's semifinals against Legend at the Aurora Sports Park was a microcosm of those seniors' prep career. They started slow but didn't go down without a fight.
In the end, it was the 10th-seeded Titans that, despite giving up five runs to Legacy in the bottom of the seventh, advanced to their second state title game in program history with a 10-6 win over No. 3 Legacy.
"The guys don't quit," said Gaffin, whose team won their last state title in 2013 against Legend and beat the Titans 8-6 last month at the Erie Tournament.
"I don't know if they had a hard time picking things up, but Legend made several adjustment that were good adjustments compared to when we played them at Erie and they should be proud of that."
Legend would go on to win the Class 5A state title, taking down another Front Range League team — Fossil Ridge — in the finals.
Legacy (20-4) dug themselves an early hole to the hard-hitting Titans. Starting pitcher Izzy Kelly gave up two runs — one of which was unearned — on an error, two walks, a sacrifice and one hit in the first inning before giving way to Hannah Farley.
Those aforementioned adjustments for Legend came in the form of freshman pitcher Bella Mumford. She completely baffled the Lightning bats over the first four innings, allowing just a leadoff single to Lauren Strathearn in the first before retiring 11 of the next twelve batters — mostly on groundballs.
"Her balls dropped really well and last time we saw her, she was definitely a lot quicker," said Strathearn, whose team got a sneak peak of Mumford for less than an inning last month. Somehow, and I don't know if it was the wind, she slowed down and it was hard to get our timing."
Legend would eventually build their lead to 10-1 on the strength of two home runs from Payton Lincavage in the sixth and seventh innings and another from Hailee Swanson. Those two bats accounted for seven of the Titans 10 runs.
But Legacy didn't just fold up the tents and head back to Broomfield.
"We just kept telling each other not to give up," Strathearn said. "That no matter what the score was, we would do everything we could to come back."
The Lightning would make Legend sweat a little, scoring five runs — four of them with two outs — in the bottom of the seventh, highlighted by back-to-back home runs from Alyssa Archuleta and Strathearn.
Archuleta's two-run blast would chase Zoey LeCompte and force Legend coach Kristen Shirk to bring Mumford back in for the final out. Strathearn, who finished 3-for-4, belted a 0-2 pitch over the fence off Mumford and then Riley Olson doubled to continue the rally.
Legend finally got the 21st out when Mumford got Trisha Cook to line out to Lincavage, who played a brilliant defensive game at shortstop.
"The first mistake we made was that we gave them too many runs and had we not, the comeback would have worked," Gaffin said. "Life has to go on and the sun is going to come up tomorrow and everything is going to be OK."
LEGEND 10, LEGACY 6
At Aurora Sports Park
Legend (17-8)202 103 2 — 10 13 0
Legacy (20-4)100 000 5 — 6 8 2
W — Bella Mumford (9-2). L — Izzy Kelly (4-1).
Legacy hitting (ab-r-h-rbi) — Olivia Bradley 3-2-1-0, Cailey Oldemeyer 4-1-0-0, Payton Lincavage 4-3-3-4, Alyssa Nunn 4-2-2-0, Hailee Swanson 4-1-3-3, Zoey LeCompte 4-0-2-2, Bella Mumford 0-0-0-0, Brooke Carwin 0-0-0-0, Lauren Griggs 4-0-0-0, Kayla Locke 3-1-2-0, Jess Nunez 4-0-0-0. Totals 34-10-13-0.
Legacy hitting (ab-r-h-rbi) — Lauren Strathearn 4-2-3-1, Riley Olson 4-0-1-0, Izzy Kelly 0-0-0-0, Hannah Farley 0-0-0-0, Trisha Cook 4-0-0-1, Ciarra Nelson 3-0-0-0, Megan Foley 3-1-1-0, Kiara Pfeifer 3-1-1-0, Sami Conradie 2-0-0-1, Morgan Reeves 0-0-0-0, Morgan Hernandez-Belew 2-1-1-1, Alyssa Archuleta 3-1-1-2. Totals 28-6-8-6.
Legend pitching (ip-h-r-er-bb-so) — Mumford 4-1-1-1-1-0, LeCompte 2.2-5-4-4-1-0, Mumford .1-2-1-1-0-0.
Legacy pitching (ip-h-r-er-bb-so) — Kelly .2-1-2-1-2-0, Farley 6.1-12-8-7-2-5.