Parker schools come up just short at state softball

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T-shirts were being sold outside Aurora Sports Park and some had the score of the Class 5A state championship softball game inserted in a bold font.

There were probably not many individuals in the Legend entourage to purchase any of these shirts since Legacy captured the championship with a 6-4 victory over the Titans on a chilly Oct. 20 afternoon.

However, there were 60 other teams that play Class 5A girls softball that didn't have the name of their schools printed on the shirt.

“Nobody thought we would be here,” said Legend coach Shelly Boyd. “We were the underdogs. Only two teams make it to the state championship. I'm very proud of the girls and proud of the season. We had to go through Grandview, Rock Canyon and Fossil Ridge just to get to the championship game.”

Legend faced a tournament-tested team in Legacy, which won its sixth state title in the past seven seasons. But the Titans took a 1-0 lead on a single by Kaley Garcia that drove home Steph Cardona, who had doubled.

However, the Lightning roared back with four runs in the fourth inning and held a 6-1 lead heading into the bottom of the seventh.

Karlee Arnold belted a 3-run homer to pull the Titans within 6-4 but the Legend rally fell short.

“One inning killed us,” Boyd said. “The girls battled until the end.”

Arnold had four runs batted in during Legend's 13-8 opening round win over Grandview. Liz Hersey's 2-run homer was a big hit in the Titans' 6-1 triumph over Rock Canyon.

Fossil Ridge had 27 hits, eight home runs and scored 29 runs in its first two games but it was Legend coming up with the big plays, hits and aggressive base running in a semifinal victory.

Freshman Jesse Smith had three hits, Cardona two hits and two RBI and junior Kylie Hager two singles and three RBI in the win over Fossil Ridge.

Legend's trip to the finals might be a preview of coming attractions for the Titans, who wound up 20-6 record for the season.

“We have three freshman (Smith, Arnold and Zoe Mihalicz) and one junior (Brooke Doumer) in the starting lineup,” explained Boyd. “Our JV program went undefeated. We have a lot great girls coming in.

“I have my pitcher back (Janelle Gardner) but lose a leader behind the plate (Robyn Leighton) and a couple other seniors. But we're going to be just a strong next year. We're young and we're going to be a contender.”

Ponderosa, which dropped a 3-2, eight-inning game to Erie in the Class 4A semifinals, will have pitcher Ally Power back next year for her senior season.

The Mustangs (19-5) beat Palmer Ridge 6-5 and shut out Berthoud 6-0 before being eliminated.

Power struck out 32 batters in the three games, including a big strikeout with the tying and go-ahead runs in scoring position to end the Palmer Ridge game.

Ponderosa has nine underclass players on its state tournament roster.

“It's disappointing,” said Mustangs coach Toby Tabola. “When you get that close, knocking on the door, you want to get to the championship game. I don't walk away with a sour taste because of the way the girls competed.

“The girls played their best ball in the regionals and state. We rode our pitcher all year and then it became a team victory at the end. We got better at the end of the season.”

Legend and Ponderosa fared the best from seven Douglas County area teams in the tournament.

Douglas County, the top-seeded team in the Class 5A state playoffs, scored 11 runs in the fifth inning to defeat ThunderRidge, 12-2, in a first-round game.

Biggest hits in the uprising were a 2-run single by Sam Hardy and a 3-run homer by Clara Larson.

The Huskies, 20-3, ran into a hard-throwing pitcher in Brighton's Melissa Rahrich and lost 8-4 to the Bulldogs in the quarterfinals.

“We are one of four teams in the school's 20-year history to go to the Final Eight,” said Huskies coach Brian Stebbins. “We are the second team to ever win 20 games. I'm very proud of the girls for the way they handled themselves this season. We ran into a hot pitcher and came up short at the end.”

ThunderRidge's late-season magic that saw them collect two regional tournament wins to advance into the state tournament disappeared against Douglas County.

“These girls have battled all year,” said Grizzlies coach James Dollaghan. “That's kind of the year that they have had. They've been up and down, up and down and we really kind of caught fire in the regionals.”

ThunderRidge ended the season with a 10-13 record.

Rock Canyon was the tournament's No. 2 seed and blanked Standley Lake 7-0 in the first round behind Lauren Paige's shutout pitching. Paige had a solo homer and Zayne Blumberg belted a grand slam to pace the Jaguars' offense.

However, Rock Canyon couldn't come up with the big hits and had two runners thrown out at home plate in the loss to Legend in a matchup between Continental League co-champions.

Rock Canyon went home with a 17-5 record.

“Legend played awesome,” said Jaguars coach Debra Kortbawi. “They made some great plays. I didn't want to see them. I'm very pleased with our season. This was a good, hard-fighting group with a lot of leadership.”

Castle View (13-9) took a 4-2 lead into the bottom of the seventh inning after a grand slam homer by Morgan Duncan but the Sabercats gave up three runs to Eaglecrest in the bottom of the inning and suffered a 5-4 first round loss.

“There was a lot of up and down in our season and I was happy to make it here,” said Castle View coach Caley Mitchell. “It was frustrating. We came back. But we didn't field a bunt, multiple times. We had a lot of young kids out there and their inexperience showed through.”

In a Class 4A first round game, Valor Christian was ousted by Mountain View. The Eagles had only two hits in a 17-2 loss that ended their season with a 17-6 record.