AURORA | In a battle of two programs in the midst of building elite softball cultures, Legend’s proved a little bit stronger Saturday.
With a lineup that included many players that contributed to their 2017 Class 5A state championship, the Titans came through in the key moments of the state title game at the Aurora Sports Park in an 8-4 win over a Cherokee Trail team that had four seniors who were around for the Cougars’ 2016 5A crown.
Late inning heroics by one of those seniors — Delanie Cox — whose one-handed swing produced a thrilling semifinal victory to earn Cherokee Trail its second state championship game appearance in four seasons.
Things went right for coach Caley Mitchell’s team in that title game — a 1-0 win over Broomfield — but not as much the second time as the top-seeded Cougars fell behind sixth-seeded Legend by six runs after five innings and couldn’t dig out of the hole.
Cherokee Trail finished the season 26-3.
Freshman Kelsey Bell gave Cherokee Trail the lead in the opening frame with an RBI single, but the Cougars’ normally potent offense — which had produced 19 runs the previous day in the quarterfinals — couldn’t come through with a big hit against Titans’ starter Zoey LaCompte.
Cherokee Trail went four innings in the middle of the game scoreless and watched Legend put up seven runs in that span with a mix of power and execution from the top to the bottom of the lineup. Seven of the Titans’ nine position players crossed the plate in the Titans’ rallies.
The Cougars finally cut into the lead in the sixth inning with three runs — which came on junior Hunter Gilbreath’s home run — but a bigger rally was short-circuited when Bell was thrown out at the plate trying to score on a double to right field by junior Adreanna Lance.
Gilbreath (who came on to bat in place of Cox) made sure Cherokee Trail got something, however, as she lined a two-out, two-strike pitcher over the left field fence off Legend reliever Bella Mumford. Freshman Jenna Medhus — who came on in relief of starter Ashley Quinn — followed that by hitting a rocket shot that went directly into the center fielder’s glove to end the inning.
The Titans were able to add a run with a fortunate bounce when Mumford’s grounder bounced off third base and bounded into the outfield to bring home a run.
The Cougars rallied from a 10-3 deficit after six innings back in August to beat Legend in a tournament at Metro State, but went down in order in the final inning and then watched the Titans celebrate.
Cherokee Trail graduates four seniors in Cox, Haley Albers, Alexis Cortez and Kaelyn Hoffman-Roenfeldt, whose contributions and leadership were vital to the season.
Cox turned in the most memorable moment of the season for the Cougars in the semifinals, when she delivered a base hit that resulted in a 2-1 walk-off victory over Loveland and star pitcher Laurin Krings.
In the final regular season game of the year, Cox suffered a finger injury that required immediate surgery and put her in a cast. Once she got a hard cast, she started working on hitting again and found that she could still put good swings on the ball with one hand.
Used as a pinch runner previously, Cox was inserted into the lineup by Mitchell to take some swings against Krings, who struck out 14 in the game.
After Lance singled and freshman Jaelyn Martinez came on as a pinch runner, Cox flared a single to right field that dropped in and set the wheels in motion for the winning run when the right fielder’s throw ticked off the third baseman’s glove and got away.
Courtney Oakes is Sentinel Sports Editor. Reach him at 303-750-7555 or [email protected] Twitter: @aurorasports. FB: Sentinel Prep Sports
LEGEND 8, CHEROKEE TRAIL 4
Score by innings:
Legend 002 230 1 — 8
Cher. Trail 100 003 0 — 4