SANDY -- After winning their first game against rival Jordan High School, Alta's softball players were disappointed.
"I didn't think we executed as well as we can," said head coach Vaughn Alvey. "It isn't happy time yet. We've got some work to do."The defending state champion Hawks eked out a win over the young but talented Beetdiggers 1-0. And if the matchup is a preview of playoff games to come, the season should be exciting. The state's softball coaches picked either Jordan or Alta to win the 5A State Championship this year in a Deseret News straw poll.
"I think anytime we play Jordan, there's a lot of emotion," Alvey said. "It's a great program, and we're the beneficiaries of their great coaching."
A number of the Hawks played in summer leagues that assigned them to teams led by Jordan coaches. That, coupled with competing against former teammates and trying to beat one of the better teams in the region, may have made his team a little more nervous that usual, Alvey said.
Alta scored in the first inning, but never again. The Hawks loaded the bases in the bottom of the third inning, but couldn't get a run across. It was as close as they'd come to scoring the rest of the game.
Jordan only managed one hit against all-star pitcher Niki Andersen, and that came in their last at-bat. Lacee Le Prey ripped a line-drive to right field and then advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by her sister Chelcee Le Prey.
That's when Alvey changed pitchers. He explained he just thought Andersen was tired and losing accuracy in her pitches. So he brought in Jenna Merchant, who pitched a shutout Tuesday night against Hillcrest. She got the last batter out on a fielder's choice and the game ended.
"I thought we tried to keep them from scoring instead of trying to score ourselves," explained Alta's Lexee Ainsworth. Alvey agreed his team played tentatively, especially after leaving three runners on base in the third.
"We know we've got to get better offensively," he said. "We had our first real batting practice last night (because of bad weather this spring). But that's just an excuse. Everyone else has had to deal with the same weather."
Niki Andersen said she wasn't "feeling it" all day. She managed, however, to throw 10 strike outs against only one walk.
"I knew the team's heart was in it," she said. "We really wanted to win . . . I wasn't feeling good all day, but I knew I had good defense behind me, backing me up."
She said she felt like she was losing control and speed at the end, but didn't want to leave in spite of it.
"I never want to come out," she said with a slight smile. "I feel pretty good about the game. It wasn't that bad, but I don't think we played to our level. We'll get better."