BROOMFIELD — Legacy softball left little doubt that it would qualify for the Class 5A state tournament next week when it hosted the Region 3 tournament on Saturday. It only took the Lightning two games to punch their ticket further into the postseason.
Heritage, the No. 28 seed, gave the No. 5 Lightning a run for their money in a first game that ended just one run in the home team’s favor. The girls started out the competition a bit slowly but bounced back, in the end, to win out with an 8-7 score.
The matchup proved vital for a team that’s met little resistance all year. Now, the girls have a sounding board when facing the kind of tough teams they’ll surely see at the Aurora Sports Park next week.
“It’s a great test for us because it taught us that the game is not over until the last out or until the last play,” junior pitcher/second baseman Khloe Kubitschek said. “We need to start off with our highest energy that we have instead of playing down and coming up when we need to.”
Their second contest against No. 12 Cherokee Trail proved a bit easier as the Lightning returned to their usual form on the diamond. They won by a 7-2 final to finish off a two-week period of tougher gameplay. Senior outfielder Kendall Aragon leaped over the fence to steal two home runs from the Cougars.
Prior to the regional tournament, the Lightning had to face top competition in No. 2 Fossil Ridge, No. 1 Horizon, Broomfield and Cherokee Trail, both of which have been receiving votes in the 5A poll. Only Horizon managed to get past Legacy, which will now enter the state tournament with a 21-4 record.
The Lightning now look toward the next step in their campaign for a state title, and they certainly have the numbers to back them up. They end the regular season with 255 runs, 20 home runs and 107 stolen bases. Their pitchers, too, have put up impressive numbers as senior Janessa Esquibel leads the way with a 14-2 record and 4.22 ERA. She’s struck out 119 batters while allowing only 49 earned runs.
“I think our last two weeks prior to state have really helped us. We had a gauntlet of teams to go through,” head coach Dawn Gaffin said. “It’s going to take all 18 of them to make it through this very even-keeled state tournament. I think any one of the one through 16 (ranked teams) can win it this year. There just isn’t that dominating team, a full team, that’s guaranteed to win this, I don’t think.”