Riverton showed up the Cottonwood Softball Complex on Wednesday knowing one victory was all it needed to book its place in the 6A state championship series.

West’s path through the other side of the bracket was much more complex, needing three wins to advance to the final.

Regardless of the method, both got the job gone as No. 1 seed Riverton and No. 6 seed West moved onto to the best-of-3 state championship series, which gets underway Thursday night at BYU at 7 p.m.

It will be the first time a Utah softball state championship game will be played at a college venue.

“We’re excited about that. Playing on a collegiate field is awesome,” said Riverton coach Katelyn Elliott.

Her team’s path to the final was pretty straightforward. It beat Fremont in the 6A semifinal in five innings, 10-0, as Kylee Ruesch and Jolie Mayfield combined for six RBIs, and Kaysen Korth won her 23rd game of the season.

While Riverton needed five innings to advance, West needed 27 innings.

It started with a come-from-behind 6-5 win over Bingham in an elimination game, and then a 2-1 win over Skyridge to force a second game with the second-seeded Falcons. West’s bats came alive in that second game for the 9-6 victory.

West is making its first title game appearance since winning the 5A title in 2019, while defending state champion Riverton is back in the final for a second-straight year.

Riverton improved to 26-1 on the season with the victory, its lone loss coming to Mountain Ridge back on April 7. Since that game, Riverton has won 13 straight, outscoring its opponents 146-12, including a shutout in all five playoff games.

At times Riverton makes it look easy, but Elliott insists it’s never easy to win games. She was particularly proud of the effort throughout the line-up on Wednesday.

Related
High school softball: 6A/5A/4A/3A/2A state tournament scores and schedules

“I like that all nine of my batters were a hard out. It’s something we’ve working on, not just relying on the home run ball or one specific player, but one through nine being gritty. Being better with every swing,” said Elliott, as eight of her nine starters recorded a hit.

“Be a difficult out. One through nine we did that, we were scoring at the bottom of the lineup, we were scoring at the top of the lineup, we were pressuring them no matter where we were in the lineup.”

Kylee Ruesch did the damage early, ripping a three-run home run in the first inning that had No. 4 seed Fremont playing catch-up the rest of the game. In the fourth inning, Ute commit Jolie Mayfield ripped a bases-clearing double that stretched the lead to 6-0. Mayfield now leads the state with 61 RBIs.

Riverton added four more runs in the fifth inning to finish off the win.

Korth said she didn’t have her best stuff on the mound, as her rise ball wasn’t finding the strike zone and her spins were a bit off. She still found a way to be dominant allowing just one hit while striking out five.

“Kaysen’s phenomenal at it. We’ve worked on it a lot for four years. Sometimes your pitch is working but the umpire is not calling it,” said Elliott. “She’s really good at finding the strike zone, finding what’s working and finding what’s working on the batters.”

For West, it pulled off the rare tripleheader of wins and did it a variety of ways.

“Every game was kind of a different scenario. We’re definitely talented in that way that we can adapt and change to the situation,” said West coach Sharee McBraun.

West’s biggest drama of the day came in its first game against Bingham, the team that knocked West down into the one-loss bracket on Tuesday.

The Panthers trailed 5-2 after two innings, but Andrea Tagovailo smacked a two-run homer in the sixth to make it a one-run game and then Maia Fonoti ripped a two-run homer in the seventh inning — her second of the day — giving her team the 6-5 lead.

In the bottom of the seventh, Bingham got the tying run to third with one out, but West pitcher Rita Tavita forced a pop out and ground out to end the game.

In the second game against a Skyridge team that needed just one win to advance, Tavita was great on the mound only allowing one run on four hits.

West’s bats came alive again in the Skyridge rematch as they recorded four extra-base hits, including two doubles from Juanita Bernal-Garcia.

Nobody expect West to be in the 6A championship game series, and McBraun expects her players too play loose and have fun on Thursday.

“We’ve been telling them, they just need to play their game, one pitch at a time, one ground ball at a time and just have fun. This team is a close unit and I know that helps with their success on the field, they have fun on the bus rides, they have fun in the dugout, they have fun during warm-ups. We’re kind of in our own little world and we kind of do our thing,” she said.