Pitching wins championships in softball, and No. 1 seed Spanish Fork and No. 7 seed Lehi are one win away from a championship series showdown because of that strong pitching.
Spanish Fork ace Avery Sapp pitched 14 innings of scoreless softball in the 5A state tournament at Cottonwood Complex on Tuesday, striking out 26 total batters in shutout wins over Timpanogos and Wasatch.
Lehi’s Grace Humes and Emerson Fuller combined on a great day in the circle for the Pioneers, with Humes striking out seven in a one-hitter against Bonneville and then Fuller striking out three in a four-hit victory over Uintah.
Both teams will return to the diamond on Wednesday afternoon knowing one more victory books their place in the three-game state championship series at BYU on Thursday and Friday.
With the way Sapp has pitched in two state tournament games last week and two more on Tuesday, it’s going to be tough for anyone to dethrone the defending champion Dons.
Sapp has struck out 52 batters in 27 innings the past four games.
Against Timpanogos in Spanish Fork’s first game she struck out 16 and then in the winner’s bracket game against Wasatch she fanned 10 more.
“She wanted this game bad, so could see with her emotions, she really wanted this, this was a big game right here for us,” said Spanish Fork coach Natalie Jarvis.
Sapp helped her own cause with a double and home run in the first game and then another double in the second game.
Jarvis thought her team might’ve got caught overlooking underdog Timpanogos a bit in the first game, but thought collectively everyone was much more dialed in against Wasatch.
The Wasps beat Bountiful in their first game on Tuesday, and did a nice job hanging with Spanish Fork early in its second game only trailing 2-0 through four innings.
Spanish Fork third baseman Peyton Hall said her team feels very comfortable with any lead, no matter how big or small, with Sapp pitching.
Check out this Grand Slam swing by the state’s leading HR hitter, Spanish Fork’s Peyton Hall (her 19th) at today’s 5A state tourney.— James Edward (@DNewsPreps) May 24, 2022
HR put her team ahead 9-0 in 6th. pic.twitter.com/K1Xe9dFXJO
“We’ve had a few where it’s been close until the end and I feel like we can usually keep it calm, just because we all have so much trust in Avery and how good she is,” said Hall.
Spanish Fork started to pull away with four runs in the fifth inning and then Hall provided the dagger with a grand slam in the bottom of the sixth, her state-leading 19th home run of the season.
Spanish Fork plays again at 12:30 p.m. on Wednesday against the winner of the 10:30 a.m. elimination game between Wasatch and Bountiful.
Lehi is in a similar position, awaiting the winner of the Springville-Uintah elimination game at 10:30 a.m. on Wednesday.
Lehi stayed on the winners side of the 5A lower bracket with a 1-0 win over Bonneville and then a 7-3 win over Uintah.
Humes only allowed one hit in the Bonneville victory, with Madison Salisbury doubling home the game’s only run in the top of the seventh inning.
Salisbury’s double seemed to wake up Lehi’s offense as it tagged Uintah’s pitcher early in the next game scoring in each of the first three innings and building the 5-0 lead.
“We knew Uintah was going to throw a little bit faster, and we do a little bit better with timing those pitches up,” said Lehi coach Tim Kennedy.
Jamisyn Heaton provided the big hit in the first inning with a two-run homer to left as she finished the game going 4 for 4 with a double and home run.
Lehi maintained the 5-0 lead until the bottom of the sixth inning when Uintah’s Ari Siddoway ripped a three-run home run to left center cutting the deficit to 5-3.
Lehi quickly added two insurance runs in the seventh on a two-run single by Heaton and then Fuller set Uintah’s batters down in order to cap a perfect day for the Pioneers.