Lehi only led for one of the 14 innings it played in the 5A state tournament on Wednesday, but it was the most important one.
With Lehi trailing by two and down to its final outs of the season, Sophie Bliss smacked a three-run home run in the top of the seventh inning as Lehi rallied past Springville in dramatic fashion for the 4-2 victory at the Cottonwood Complex in Millcreek.
Jamisyn Heaton added an RBI single for an insurance run as the Pioneers celebrated and advanced to the best-of-3 5A state championship series which gets underway on Thursday at BYU at 4:30 p.m.
Lehi will face No. 1 seed and defending state champion Spanish Fork, which blanked Bountiful 3-0 on Wednesday to advance to the final.
Lehi had to work much harder than that to secure its place in the first-ever Utah high school softball state championship game to be played at a college venue.
The Pioneers arrived at the diamond on Wednesday in the winners bracket, and needing just one victory to move onto the final. Springville, meanwhile arrived in the one-loss bracket, and first needed to beat Uintah 9-3 to give itself a shot of beating Lehi twice.
The Red Devils did exactly that in the first game, using a big five-run third inning to jump all over Lehi for the 7-3 win. Tyler Haveron provided the big hits as she drove in three runs and went 3 for 4 at the plate.
In the second game, Springville went up 1-0 on an RBI single by Emma Liddiard in the fourth inning and then another by Brooklynn Richardson in the fifth. It maintained that lead into the seventh as Lehi struggled to string any big hits together.
That changed in the seventh as Grace Humes and Madison Salisbury reached on back-to-back singles, setting the table for Bliss who smashed a home run over the left-field wall giving Lehi its first lead of the day.
Lehi will now face a Spanish Fork team it hasn’t faced in three years in the state championship.
The top-seeded Dons recorded their third-straight shutout playoff victory on Wednesday as Avery Sapp struck out 11 and only allowed two hits.
It took the offense a while to get going, with Peyton Hall and Jade Romero singling home runs in the bottom of the sixth which gave Sapp a few extra insurance runs heading into the seventh. Until then, Peyton Hall’s state-leading 20th home run in the first inning had been the only scoring of the game.
A one-run lead should always be good enough in Sapp’s mind.
“I trust my team, I know we’re going to put our best out there. Even with a 1-0 ballgame, I trust my defense, I never really get worried in that situation,” said Sapp, who’s recorded double-digit strikeouts in all five of Spanish Fork’s playoff wins.
Sapp said the constant communication with catcher Ashlyn Losee is always a big part of her success.
“My change-up was working well, rise ball was working well, but I just think overall me and Ashlyn’s communication helped us out a little bit,” Losee said. “We just talked through everything, see what we wanted to have our game plan be, see what we wanted to have our game plan be, see what we wanted to throw next. It was always different.”