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High school softball: Spanish Fork, Mountain Ridge earn place in 5A semifinals

The Spanish Fork players celebrate during the 5A softball quarterfinals against Springville at Spanish Fork Sports Park in Spanish Fork on Tuesday, May 25, 2021.
The Spanish Fork players celebrate during the 5A softball quarterfinals against Springville at Spanish Fork Sports Park in Spanish Fork on Tuesday, May 25, 2021.
Annie Barker, Deseret News

The first two rounds of the championship stages of the 5A softball tournament were played on Tuesday in Spanish Fork. Two teams battled to find themselves in tomorrow’s semifinals while two more teams were eliminated, the other four teams split their games and will try to maneuver themselves out of the one-loss bracket by picking up three consecutive wins on Wednesday.

Bracket 1 was dominated by Spanish Fork who picked up convincing wins, first over Murray by a score of 15-0 followed by a 4-1 victory over Springville. In the morning game, the Dons dominated their way to a win in just three innings. Brooklyn Pintar hit two home runs on her way to seven RBIs, and Avery Sapp had seven strikeouts as she picked up the win in the circle.

After Springville defeated Bountiful 5-4, it set up a matchup against their Region 8 rivals. Spanish Fork scored the first runs of the game with a couple of beautiful plays in the bottom half of the second. With a runner on first base, Sapp laid down a beautiful bunt down the third baseline. She made it safely to first while the runner snuck all the way around to third. After Sapp stole second, Peyton Hall singled to bring both runners home to take a lead they would never give up.

“Any runs you get, especially as a pitcher, you’re helping yourself out to kind of ease your stress,” coach Natalie Jarvis commented. “She pitched a heck of a game; she just did outstanding and controlled the game.”

Sapp took a perfect game into the seventh inning while striking out another seven batters. Eventually in her 10th frame of the day, she let up two hits and allowed a run, but was able to regroup and finish the game without any real threat making an appearance in what was a near perfect performance.

Bountiful rebounded from their loss by taking down Murray 12-8, setting up a rematch with Springville where the winner will have to take down Spanish Fork twice on Wednesday afternoon to advance to the state championship series.

The Bracket 2 winners bracket featured some of the best games of the year as all three were won by the higher seeded team on the final at bats of the game. The fourth round saw Mountain Ridge rally from a one-run deficit in the seventh inning to pick up a 9-8 win over Lehi behind a walk-off from Taegan Smith. Meanwhile just 50 feet away, Wasatch was rallying from a 2-0 deficit to get their own walk-off win, a 3-2 victory off of Charly Cluff’s bat that set up a battle between the Sentinels and Wasps.

The Wasatch offense put pressure on the Sentinels all game. Just two batters in, they had already scored a run and had another one when Andrea Sweat hit a deep ball to center field. Kiley Avery reached over the fence and saved a home run. In the bottom half of the first, Mountain Ridge quickly rallied. After a leadoff single, Mychaela McClanahan hit a ball over the fence to immediately tie the game

Both teams settled in for the next few innings before Wasatch regained a two-run lead in the top of the fourth but left runners on both second and third. Similar events unfolded in the fifth inning as well. The Wasps again had two runners in scoring position, this time with no outs. However, two pop ups stayed in the infield before Lexi Beveridge hit a deep to left field.

“When it was hit, our center fielder just kept telling me I had room and I was able to bring it in,” said Taya Manzanares, who fell over the wall as she hauled in the fly ball to save three runs. The play kept the Sentinels within striking distance.

Mountain Ridge scored a run in the fifth to cut the lead in half, but still found themselves trailing by one heading into the final frame. Just a few hours earlier they were in the same position, down one with the top of the order on deck. They knew exactly what to do, get Avery on base, let McClanahan pick up a hit, and then Smith would take care of the rest. Different game, same result. The leadoff batter hit a line drive to center field and then McClanahan, who hit the home run in the first inning, pushed a bunt toward second base that somehow reached the outfield as she ended up at second and Avery came home to tie the game.

“Two weeks ago, we moved her to that two spot and she has been fantastic for us. It is just gigantic when the top of your order has the ability to play a short game, but she also has a little bit of power too,” coach Andre Ashton commented on McClanahan’s performance.

A grounder advanced the runner and for the second time of the day, Smith found herself in the batter’s box with a chance to win her team the game.

“I got up into the box knowing that this is my time. I was locked in and I saw that pitch and gave it everything I had.” said Smith on her final at bat.

The ball got over the center fielder’s head as the winning run crossed home plate to give Mountain Ridge a 5-4 and a semifinal berth in the school’s inaugural campaign.

Farmington eliminated Lehi with an 11-4 victory that set up a rematch between the Phoenix and Wasatch. The winner will move on to play the Sentinels for a berth in the state championship series.