Matthew Jonas / Staff Photographer
Matthew Jonas / Staff Photographer
Just as they were Monday night while carving pumpkins together as a team over at head coach Dawn Gaffin’s house, the Legacy Lightning softball team has been intricate in the details of the 2018 season on their way to reaching the Class 5A state tournament.
Met with some challenges at times while trekking through one of the state’s toughest schedules, the Lightning have responded with a nine-game winning streak entering Friday’s first rounds at the Aurora Sports Park.
And somehow, after making last’s years semifinals, it seems as though the Lightning are still flying under the radar. The Front Range League champions weren’t discussed nearly as much as defending state runner-up Fossil Ridge, and even Loveland and ace pitcher Lauren Krings captured the spotlight through the year with her incredible whiff rate.
But Gaffin isn’t going to complain.
“I’m actually okay with that, because it’s something where I focus on our team going bit-by-bit, brick-by-brick, playing to build our team so that the expectation is to get to state and win it,” Gaffin said on Monday, two days after her team beat Northglenn and Regis Jesuit to reach state for the third year in a row. “It’s not about how you start, but how you finish.”
Legacy has been steady, to be true, since losing its first two games of the season. At 21-4, the team’s only other losses came to Sequoyah (Oklahoma, in the Erie Festival of Champions) and Grand Junction Central (a road trip loss on a state testing day).
Perhaps most impressive of their mark? Of the top eight seeded teams in 5A — Legacy is included in there at No. 3 — the Lightning played six of the other seven. Additionally, of the 15 other remaining teams in the classification, LHS faced off against 11 of them going 8-3. Friday’s opening round will present one of those rematches as Legacy plays Castle View, who LHS beat 7-0 back on August 24 at Metro State.
Pitching and hitting have once again provided Gaffin with balanced explosiveness. Lauren Strathearn is hitting .648 in her senior campaign, freshman outfielder Kendall Aragon is second on the squad at .447 and though they aren’t the home-run smacking club of one year ago, Legacy is gap-attacking with 43 doubles as a team.
Hannah Farley and Izzy Kelly, meanwhile, have a combined 2.36 earned-run average with both players contributing equally to that respectable number.
“The girls have done well in terms of getting the job done when they’ve needed to get it done,” Gaffin said, adding she always plans out her team’s schedule with the toughest possible mix of opponents. “Kendall has been nothing but a positive force for us, and a source of joy and refreshment as a freshman.
“Hannah and Izzy are just a great combination and girls that complement each other so well. Not every team is blessed with that — heck, we haven’t hardly been blessed with that (1-2 punch) hardly ever. They’re wonderful ladies that I can count on and trust out there at any time.”
Legacy is the last BoCoPreps.com area team to win a softball title (2013), but as is usually the case the 5A and 4A brackets are loaded with local hopefuls.
In 5A, Broomfield under interim coach Kale Gilmore upset Eaglecrest in regionals and will be at state for the ninth time in the past 10 years. The Eagles were seeded No. 7 and will first face No. 10 Grand Junction Central.
In 4A, Silver Creek’s dominating regional performance earned it a No. 2 overall seed and a first-round tilt with Evergreen, while Holy Family sits as the No. 3 seed in its first state tournament appearance as a 4A-level squad and plays Cheyenne Mountain.
There can only be one winner between No. 6 Erie and No. 11 Longmont — a matchup of two teams with vastly different state tournament histories as EHS is making its 23rd straight appearance and LHS its first in recent memory.
First round games start Friday at 10 a.m. and 12:15 p.m., and quarterfinal games will run at 2:30 p.m.
Saturday’s semifinals will play at 10 a.m., and championship games for 5A and 4A are slated for a 1:30 p.m. start.