LAKEWOOD — For the second straight season, the Rocky Mountain Lobos eliminated the Legacy Lightning from the playoffs. This time, it came in an elimination game in the Class 5A state tournament on Saturday, where the Lobos defeated the Lightning 6-1 at All-Star Park at Keli McGregor Field.
“It was certainly heartbreaking,” Legacy coach Ty Giordano said. “You work all season to be in the position we were in. Rocky Mountain is a great team… we hate seeing each other in the playoffs. If we had to, we would like to see each other further (in the postseason).”
Legacy did not have the lead in its first playoff game with Grandview on Friday, but an RBI double from Kieran Gaffney put them up 1-0 in the second inning on Saturday. The Lightning could not add to the lead and left the bases loaded. In the bottom of the second, Rocky Mountain got the bases full looking to do some damage, but a strikeout from Cale Claridge and a fly ball to left field kept the Lightning in front.
Claridge and Jackson Stapleton got out of the third inning and left two base runners on for Rocky Mountain to keep it a one-run game. Their luck in keeping the Lobos off the board would not continue in the next inning. Will Vasseur took a 3-2 pitch in a long at-bat to right field to score two runs and put Rocky Mountain in front. After an intentional walk, Garrett Fisher drilled a pitch over the fence in left field to add three more runs and put the Lobos in front 5-1.
“It was tough,” Giordano said. “There are so many flows in the game. The smallest little thing can be the difference between something busting open and something not busting open. I think that happened both ways.”
The Lightning were unable to cut into the deficit and found themselves repeating their troubles at the plate from Friday, where they were hitting the ball right to defenders and not being rewarded for putting the ball in play. Two plays from Rocky Mountain third baseman Cooper Axe prevented any runs from forming in the fifth and the middle of the infield turned two double-plays in the final two innings to secure the win.
Cade Nelson threw a complete game for Rocky Mountain and navigated through the first couple of innings to keep the game close. After some close calls and preventing multiple runs from scoring in the first and second inning, he did not allow a base runner to reach second base for the final five innings and allowed three hits.
“That happens in baseball,” Legacy’s Blake Labuda said. “You can put the ball in play, but that’s all you can do.”
Saturday marked a tough end to the season, but Giordano felt his team deserved credit for turning around a 1-6 start and making it to the state tournament with a team that featured only one senior in the starting lineup.
“Do I feel we belong here? Absolutely,” Giordano said. “I think we’re right here with the rest of these clubs. We were a little unlucky, but there were some things we didn’t do well that we could have done better.”
Giordano added that the youth of his team gives them a bright future. For the seniors, however, they leave the tournament on a disappointing note but are proud of their accomplishments with the young team.
“It feels like a great accomplishment to be here,” Labuda said. “There are a lot of great teams here. I’m just proud to be here.”
Rocky Mountain 6, Legacy 1
At All-Star Park at Keli McGregor Field
Legacy (15-12) 010 000 0 — 1 3 1
Rocky Mountain (18-8-1) 000 501 x — 6 7 0
W — Cade Nelson (5-0). L — Jackson Stapleton (1-2).
Legacy hitting (ab-r-h-rbi) — Chase Esplin 2-0-1-0, Macully Sehr 1-0-0-0, Joshua Maestas 3-0-0-0, Cale Claridge 3-0-0-0, Blake Labuda 2-1-0-0, Kieran Gaffney 3-0-2-1, Blake Roberts 2-0-0-0, Jackson Stapleton 1-0-0-0, JD Mari 1-0-0-0. Totals 28-1-3-1. 2B — Gaffney. SB — Cole Jaeger.
Rocky Mountain hitting (ab-r-h-rbi) — Dylan Hupfer 3-1-1-0, Will Vasseur 4-1-1-2, Cade Nelson 3-1-1-1, Garrett Fisher 4-1-2-3, Jaren Piepho 4-0-1-0, Ben Knauer 3-0-0-0, Jett Hoggatt 1-0-0-0, Jon Cathcart 2-0-0-0, Aaron Loucks 3-1-1-0. Totals 32-6-7-7. HR — Fisher. SB — Fisher.
Legacy pitching (ip-h-r-er-bb-so) — Cale Claridge 2.2-2-0-0-4-5, Jackson Stapleton 1.1-3-5-5-3-0, Macully Sehr 2-2-1-1-0-2.
Rocky Mountain pitching (ip-h-r-er-bb-so) — Cade Nelson 7-3-1-1-4-6.