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High school softball: Seventh-inning stratagems seal deal for Ridgeline in 4A state championship Game 1

SHARE High school softball: Seventh-inning stratagems seal deal for Ridgeline in 4A state championship Game 1

Trailing 2-1 heading into the top of the seventh inning, Ridgeline Riverhawks head coach Mike Anderson pulled out a few tricks to push the tying and winning runs across to take the first game of the three-game series for the Utah softball 4A state championship against Bear River at Dixie State in St. George.

The Riverhawks sport a 25-5 record, but two of those losses have been to Bear River.

“That is a very well-run program by one of the top coaches in the state,” Anderson said. “It’s no secret that we try to emulate what they do.

“Our girls knew that we were going to have to beat them to get the trophy and they did not want it any other way. We still have one more to get, but it should be against the returning champion and best team in the state.”

With the 1-0 series advantage, the Riverhawks will try for the sweep in Game 2 with an 11:00 a.m. start time on Saturday.

If Bear River wins, the series will go to a deciding third game at 1:30 p.m.

On Friday, Bear River took its first lead in the bottom of the fifth inning. With the score tied at 1-1, Carlee Miller hit a sacrifice fly to right field to score Kynlei Nelson, who had led off the inning with a walk.

After failing to get a runner aboard in the top of the sixth, Ridgeline was down to its final three outs. Kenzee Hale led off with an infield single to third base and then stole second and made it to third on Abbie Banning’s bunt sacrifice. 

Mackenzie Jorgensen came to bat next. After strike one though, Anderson brought in Eliza Arledge to finish the at-bat.

“We brought in Eliza because she reads pitches very well and does not chase bad pitches trying to lay down a bunt,” Anderson said. 

On the next pitch, Bear River’s Haylee Farnsworth attempted to pick off Hale at third base but instead of diving back to third, Hale darted home and barely slid under the tag for the tying run.

“Kenzee Hale is an excellent baserunner,” Anderson said. “We have very good baserunners. Her decision to go home was all hers. We trust her to make that decision.”

Anderson then reentered Shelby Blankenship. The junior outfielder punched the ball down the left-field line, putting the winning run at third with a triple.

“Shelby is a better power hitter,” Anderson said, “so we had the unique situation of three batters in the same at-bat.”

Ava Howell entered the game to pinch run for Blankenship. A diving catch from the Bear River catcher gave Ridgeline its second out, but Adi Hansen drove in Howell for the go-ahead run with another infield single.

Bear River got out of the inning without any more damage but the Bears were unable to get any runners aboard in the final stanza.

The game started slowly for both teams offensively as Bear River’s Kate Dahle (5 strikeouts) and Ridgeline’s Markessa Jensen (4 Ks) both pitched well.

The teams only combined for seven hits and Jensen took a no-hitter into the fourth but still had to escape a jam in the third with the lead-off batter reaching on an error and the next two runners getting on board with walks.

An infield groundout to short ended the inning and kept both teams scoreless.

The Riverhawks struck first in the fourth inning as Brynnley Anderson bunt-singled to lead off the inning and would later score on Anne Wallace’s single to right field.

However, the run was quickly matched as the Bears struck in the bottom of the inning as Dahle beat out an infield grounder to shortstop.

Baylee Sorenson came in as a pinch runner and later scored on Aubree Fry’s single to right field.

Fry led the Bears with two hits.

The loss dropped Bear River to 28-4 overall.