The seven other teams that advanced to the 4A state softball quarterfinals had delusions of derailing Box Elder's bid for a threepeat. The buzz around the Salt Lake County Cottonwood Complex on Wednesday was that this Box Elder team was too young - only four juniors and seniors on the roster.
The Bees must not have listened as they routed Spanish Fork (13-1) in the opener and shutout Payson (6-0) in their second game in the double-elimination tournament.Box Elder's second game featured sophomore pitcher Marcie Neff. Though Neff didn't overpower the Payson batters - one strikeout - she only gave up two hits. Neff helped her own cause by going 3-for-4 at the plate.
"Our hitting was good, but we had awesome defense," said Neff of the Bees' errorless effort.
The game began as a pitcher's duel as the Lion's hurler, Annie Harmer, held the potent Box Elder bats scoreless through three innings. Payson's fortune changed in the fourth as three straight singles gave Box Elder a bases-loaded-no-outs situation. The Bees capitalized as Taryn Nichols scored on a wild pitch and Amy Bilboa came home on Neff's single. Box Elder added four insurance runs in the top of the sixth to move on in the winner's bracket.
"The slower pitcher (Payson's Annie Harmer) gave us trouble early . . . but if we can hit, we're tough, we've got the pitching and the defense," said Box Elder coach Jim Fuller.
West earned the right to play the two-time defending champs as the Panthers held off Pleasant Grove in their first game and squeaked by Region 6/7 rival Tooele (2-0) in the later game.
Midori Watanuki pitched West to both victories, and was nearly flawless in her two-hit shutout win over the Lady Buffs. Elisa Salazar had the hot bat in the second game for the Panthers. She had an RBI triple in the fourth inning. Salazar's sacrifice fly sent Precious Gallo home in the sixth.
In other games, Pleasant Grove avenged its loss to West by knocking off Springville 5-1. The Vikings will play Payson and Tooele will face Spanish Fork. The Dons avoided elimination with a 6-3 win over Murray.