The reigning 3A softball state champion Grantsville Cowboys got one step closer to the ultimate prize Friday afternoon.
After taking the last three tournament championships, the No. 3 Cowboys defeated No. 1 Manti 3-1, advancing to Saturday’s final. The loss stung a little extra for a Templar team that saw Grantsville dash its championship hopes on the final stage in 2019, the last time the state tournament was held.
The Cowboys came into the game facing the tall task of taking down Manti. The Templars were riding a 14-game win streak, having punished opponents and forcing the mercy rule to be applied in its last four games.
Manti’s potent offense was stifled by a Grantsville defense headed by senior captain August Cowan, who spent all seven innings in the circle. The right-handed pitcher stumped Templar batters all game long, making it a very frustrating afternoon for the top seed.
“It just took a lot of belief in ourselves and the program and each other. We’re the underdogs, we weren’t supposed to be this far,” Cowboy head coach Tony Cloward said after the game.
“They gave us the three in the RPI. We’re not supposed to be the ones standing unbeaten right now. It’s an emotional moment. These kids believing in the system, believing in each other and just getting it done. Even when bad things happen, they just rallied and took care of each other. It was just a real team effort.”
It took a lot of effort for both teams to get on the board, with every run coming in the third inning. The Cowboys took a 3-0 lead in the top of the inning as junior outfielder Miyah Fields got things underway for Grantsville on a Manti error followed by a stolen base.
Batting at the top of the order, infielder Mackenzie Allen hit a single, pushing Fields to third base. Fields made it home for the first run of the game when lefty batter Brooklyn Frischknecht hit a ground ball single.
Senior outfielder Kassidy Alder scored Manti’s lone run of the day after a double coupled with a bad throw got her to third base. She found her way home a few moments later when fellow senior Sadie Cox knocked her in.
It took an entire team effort to hold the high-scoring Templars to just one run.
“It starts first off with our pitcher. August Cowan has been on fire,” Cloward said. “We’ve rode her this whole tournament. She’s just on fire. Then defensively we just kept working on it, changing some pieces, plugging things in, and the defense just keeps getting better as we continue to work with it.
“It was a combination of great pitching and great support behind her. I can’t say enough about some of the kids that stepped up defensively.”
Grantsville will need to continue to step up its game as it faces a tough road ahead Saturday. The Cowboys will play the winner of the Manti-Carbon matchup for a chance at a fourth straight state championship.
Carbon enters its game with Manti following a dramatic seventh-inning walk-off victory over region rival Grand County. The Dinos won the game 7-6.
The championship game will begin play at 12:30 p.m. Saturday afternoon with a second game set for 2:30 p.m. if necessary.