The senior-led Smoky Hill softball team is determined to make some noise in the Class 5A state softball tournament, which begins Friday at the Aurora Sports Park. The 11th-seeded Buffaloes and No. 13 Cherokee Trail represent Aurora in the 16-team field set to compete over two days. (Photo by Courtney Oakes/Sentinel Colorado)

AURORA | Two city softball teams with plenty of recent tradition — Smoky Hill and Cherokee Trail — begin play at the Class 5A state softball tournament Friday at the Aurora Sports Park.

The Cougars in particular have found the state tournament to their liking since Caley Mitchell took over as head coach, as they have advanced to the state championship game three times in the past five seasons and won one crown in 2016.

Despite losing star pitcher Jenna Medhus to injury before the season, a Cherokee Trail team led by a determined group of seniors mixed with rising young talent can’t be discounted in the state field, especially as a very dangerous No. 13 seed.

The Cougars (17-9) open the state tournament at 10 a.m. against fourth-seeded Legend (21-4), a team they beat earlier this season as well as a program that beat them in regionals to keep them out of the state tournament in 2019. The winner advances to a 2:30 p.m. contest against either No. 12 Broomfield (16-10) or No. 4 Legacy (21-4).

Cherokee Trail has played Legacy twice in the past two weeks, falling by 10 runs in the first meeting and then by five last weekend in regional play (recap, here).

Smoky Hill takes the 11th seed into the state tournament because of a regional loss to Chatfield — which snapped a 12-game winning streak — but coach B.J. Kingsbaker’s two-time Centennial League champion Buffaloes know their way around state.

A senior-heavy group will be looking to make their last state tournament appearance the best one, however, as they’ve been disappointed in their last three trips. In 2018, Rock Canyon rallied past Smoky Hill on a walk-off home run and the next season, a tight game with Arapahoe got away with one bad inning.

Last season, the Buffaloes had eventual state champion Fossil Ridge on the ropes in quarterfinal play — which was played at local sites instead of the Aurora Sports Park due to the coronavirus pandemic — before the SaberCats won on a walk-off home run in extra innings.

This Smoky Hill group aims for a different result this time around and begins its quest with a 12:15 p.m. contest against sixth-seeded Mountain Vista (19-6), a team the Buffs (22-4) lost to 6-3 midway through the regular season.

The Smoky Hill-Mountain Vista moves into a 2:30 p.m. quarterfinal against No. 14 Arvada West (16-9-1) or No. 3 Fossil Ridge (22-3).

The state tournament concludes Saturday with a pair of 10 a.m. semifinals followed by the state championship game at 1 p.m.

Follow @aurorasports on Twitter for in-game updates from all games involving Aurora teams.

Courtney Oakes is Sentinel Colorado Sports Editor. Reach him at [email protected] Twitter: @aurorasports. IG: Sentinel Prep Sports

2021 CLASS 5A STATE SOFTBALL TOURNAMENT

Oct. 22 at Aurora Sports Park (Complex B)

Upper bracket

Game 1: No. 16 Castle View (17-9) vs. No. 1 Horizon (25-1), 10 a.m.

Game 2: No. 9 Grand Junction Central (21-5) vs. No. 8 Chatfield (17-8), 10 a.m.

Game 3: NO. 13 CHEROKEE TRAIL (17-9) vs. No. 4 Legend (21-4), 10 a.m.

Game 4: No. 12 Broomfield (16-10) vs. No. 5 Legacy (21-4), 10 a.m.

Lower bracket

Game 5: No. 14 Arvada West (16-9-1) vs. No. 3 Fossil Ridge (22-3), 12:15 p.m.

Game 6: NO. 11 SMOKY HILL (22-4) vs. No. 6 Mountain Vista (19-6), 12:15 p.m.

Game 7: No. 15 Rock Canyon (13-13) vs. No. 2 Columbine (22-3), 12:15 p.m.

Game 8: No. 10 Chaparral (19-7) vs. No. 7 Lakewood (17-8), 12:15 p.m.

Quarterfinals, Oct. 22

Game 9: Game 1 winner vs. Game 2 winner, 2:30 p.m.

Game 10: Game 3 winner vs. Game 4 winner, 2:30 p.m.

Game 11: Game 5 winner vs. Game 6 winner, 2:30 p.m.

Game 12: Game 7 winner vs. Game 8 winner, 2:30 p.m.

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