By the time Spanish Fork’s Aubree Leonard stepped to the plate with the bases loaded in the fourth inning Thursday, her team had Game 1 of the 5A state championship series pretty well under control, leading by seven.
The junior threw down the gauntlet though, smashing a two-strike pitch deep over the left-field fence for the grand slam, extending the lead to 14-3 over Mountain Ridge as the Dons polished the win off in five innings.
The home run was Leonard’s second of the game, as she also hit a three-run blast in the third inning, finishing with seven RBIs.
The irony is Mountain Ridge intentionally walked Avery Sapp — who homered the inning before — to face Leonard. It was a pick-your-poison moment for the underdog Sentinels, and Leonard made sure they paid.
“I think they could’ve walked anybody in our lineup and the next hitter is just as strong,” said Leonard.
Spanish Fork will try and clinch the state title Friday morning in Game at 11 a.m. at Spanish Fork Sports Complex. If Mountain Ridge wins Game 2, a decisive third game will be held shortly after.
“I’m so pumped, I’m so excited for tomorrow,” said Leonard, who hit two of Spanish Fork’s four home runs on the day.
Spanish Fork coach Aubrey Jarvis said it was great to see her team’s bats come alive after a difficult Wednesday, in which it had to grind out a 4-1 win over Springville and then a 3-1 win over Bountiful to advance to the championship.
“Our bats came alive today, it was rewarding,” said Jarvis.
“Our bats came alive today, it was rewarding.” — Spanish Fork coach Aubrey Jarvis
The Dons didn’t change their approach or take any extra batting practice to get the bats going, they just stuck with the same approach they have all season, which has led to 29 wins. Win No. 30 on Friday will clinch its first state title since a three-peat from 2015 to 2017.
Sapp picked up the win for Spanish Fork, striking out six and working her way through an early jam.
Mountain Ridge recorded three first-inning singles, the third an RBI single by Tasha Hokanson that put the Sentinels ahead 1-0. With the bases loaded and still only one out, a big inning certainly looked possible. Sapp, however, struck out the last two batters to limit the damage.
“A lot of fight, a lot grit. Ashlyn behind the plate called a tremendous game, she called the entire game, always has and she does an amazing job,” said Jarvis about her pitching battery.
In the bottom of the first, it didn’t take Spanish Fork long to regain the lead. Trinity Benson led off the inning with a single and two batters later scored on an opposite-field home run by Brooklyn Pintar.
Spanish Fork kept the momentum going with base hits by Kiley Mitchell and Ashlyn Losse and then Leonard’s three-run homer for the 6-1 lead.
“We fought right back the next inning and put a stamp on it, that we’re here to play, I think that that shows their hearts and their want to win this championship,” said Jarvis.
In the second and fourth innings Mountain Ridge again put multiple runners on base, but Sapp avoided giving up the big hit to get out of the jam.
In Spanish Fork’s half of the fourth inning, it punished a couple of Mountain Ridge fielding errors for a seven spot to close things out early.