Box score

Grantsville ace Chloe Bytheway believes she pitches better when the pressure is on.

She’d get no argument from North Sanpete, or anyone else watching Friday’s 3A state tournament game at the Spanish Fork Softball Complex.

Bytheway pitched her team out of tough situations in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings, each of which helped her preserve the shutout as top seed Grantsville blanked No. 3 seed North Sanpete to book its place in Saturday’s state championship at 12:30 p.m.

Bytheway finished with 14 strikeouts and as North Sanpete stranded 10 runners on base.

“She’s known for that. It seems like her focus and her dedication is better when there’s pressure. You saw that today. That’s not uncommon for her to find a little extra,” said Grantsville coach Tony Cloward. “She’s been our ace for a couple years now.”

Grantsville led 3-0 after three innings, but North Sanpete loaded the bases with no outs in the top of the fourth and seemed poised to fight right back into the game. Bytheway proceeded to strikeout the next three batters to get out of the jam.

Bytheway said she takes comfort in those situations knowing that even if North Sanpete puts the ball in play, her defense will take care of things.

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In both the fifth and sixth innings, North Sanpete got two runners on base and again Bytheway recorded a strikeout for the third out to preserve the shutout.

Grantsville was the top seed a year ago, but lost twice on the second-to-last day of the season as its streak of four straight state titles came to an end. It will be favored to win on Saturday no matter who it plays.

“We feel so much strong coming in this year, and just more confident in ourselves because of last year. We want it more this year than we did last year,” said Bytheway.

Grantsville will play the winner of the 10 a.m. game on Saturday between defending champ and No. 12 seed Manti and North Sanpete. Manti won two games in the one-loss bracket on Friday to advance to the final day of the season.

If North Sanpete advances to the championship, it could present some problems as pitcher Katelyn Johnson did a great job holding Grantsville’s potent offense in check after it scored two runs in the first inning.

“I give them a lot of credit, North Sanpete is a very good team and that pitcher kept us a little bit off balance where we were hitting it but just right at people,” said Cloward.

Grantsville shortstop Kenzie Allen is the only starter remaining from Grantsville’s state championship team from two years ago, and her leadership is a calming presence on the field for Bytheway on the mound, and for the entire team when she’s leading off the game.

On Friday, Sophia Crosby and Ellie Thomas delivered big RBI singles for the Cowboys, run support that proved more than enough for Bytheway.