Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer
DENVER — At risk of elimination Friday afternoon at All-City Stadium, Legacy was given a dominant six-plus innings from senior Connor Antczak to help preserve and extend the Lightning’s season into the Class 5A state tournament’s final day.
But Anczak’s performance was nearly for naught as a late rally by No. 3 seed Chaparral made things interesting in the seventh inning. No. 2 seed Legacy’s composed relief pitching, however, ultimately secured the 4-3 win.
Up 4-0 entering the seventh inning, Antczak allowed three consecutive doubles to begin the frame before being removed for senior Braden Hollis. Hollis then recorded one out and was replaced by senior Kieran Gaffney, who ended the game by catching an infield pop-up with Wolverine runners on second and third.
“We all have each other’s backs,” Antczak said. “We’re all brothers. We have the next man-up mentality and that’s what happened today.”
Legacy head coach Ty Giordano credited his team’s composure for holding off the late rally.
“I think the biggest thing in those situations is you have to maintain composure,” Giordano said. “Your team’s got to maintain composure. (Chaparral is) a very good baseball team, they showed it. You know they’re going to fight all the way to the last out.”
Legacy will now face No. 7 Cherokee Trail (21-7) at 11 a.m. on Saturday with the winner then challenging No. 5 Broomfield at 1:30 p.m. for the state title. Broomfield, which was the only 5A team to make it past last weekend’s games with a 3-0 record, lost its first game of the double-elimination tournament earlier on Friday, 12-8, to Cherokee Trail.
The 20-9 Eagles still remain one win away from winning the program’s third state title (2006, 2012).
Coming off a second inning in which Legacy (26-3) struck out four times, Hollis began the third with a single to left and later scored the game’s first run courtesy of Gaffney’s base hit.
The Lightning then added on three more runs in the fifth inning with a Derek Olsen RBI single, a run-scoring wild pitch and a Blake Roberts RBI single.
Antczak’s quick groove continued on the mound as he struck out two Wolverines in the sixth inning with the help of a well-commanded slider. Though it was Legacy’s errorless defense that the senior hurler gave all the love to.
“I had a great defense behind me today,” Antczak said. “I trusted them. I allowed the hitters to put the ball in play because I knew the defense was going to step up, and they made their plays. We played a really good team game today.”
Giordano was likewise impressed with Antzcak’s 76-pitch outing that included zero walks.
“He’s been our best guy all year and he proved it today,” Giordano said. “(Antzcak was) absolutely outstanding, exactly what we needed.”
Heading into the tournament’s final day, Giordano said he holds confidence considering Legacy has already played and swept three doubleheaders on the season. But an initial win against Cherokee Trail must come first.
“We’re going to give everything we got in the first one and make it to the second one,” Antczak said. “Hopefully we’ll hopefully win two tomorrow.”