Bracket play of the 5A state softball tournament wrapped up on Wednesday at Cottonwood Complex, with No. 1 seed Spanish Fork and No. 2 seed Bountiful both taking care of business to secure their places in the best-of-3 state championship series.
Here’s a recap of both games.
If Eva Stoddard had her way, she’d pitch every inning of every game. She loves to have the ball in her hand.
Coach Butch Latey, however, has experienced firsthand some pitchers burning out late in the season, so with another capable pitcher on roster he’s alternated quite a bit this season.
When starter Ella Miller found herself in some trouble early in Wednesday’s 5A state tourney game with a berth in the championship series on the line, Latey didn’t hesitate to put Stoddard back in even though she’d thrown all nine innings of a game a few hours earlier in the 3-2 win over Springville.
Stoddard delivered, too.
She came on and pitched 4 1⁄3 innings without allowing a run and striking out nine, and that gave the Redhawks time to get going offensively those last three innings as they rallied for the 5-3 win to advance to the state championship.
Stoddard said spinning the ball was key.
“I didn’t want to try and overpower them at all ‘cause if they get a hold of something that’s not moving. It’s gone,” she said.
Latey believes that managing Stoddard’s innings has her in a great position to deal with the extra work like when called upon Wednesday.
“I knew she’d be tired if she threw all year,” said Latey.
With Wednesday’s wins over Springville and Salem Hills, Stoddard’s record sits at 13-2 this season, while Miller is 9-1.
While Stoddard came in and shut things down defensively, it was Isabeau Hoff who delivered offensively for Bountiful with her first home run of the season.
After back-to-back doubles from Athena Tongaonevai and Miller, Hoff smashed a two-run home run to tie the game 3-3 in the fourth inning.
In the sixth, Hoff and Claire Yates kickstarted the offense with singles that helped Bountiful grab a 5-3 lead.
“They don’t get flustered. For some reason they just think they’re going to get it done,” said Latey, whose team will be making its first state championship appearance since 2019.
No. 2 seed Bountiful will face defending champ and top seed Spanish Fork in the best-of-3 championship series which gets underway Thursday night at BYU at 7 p.m.
Game is 2 slated for Friday at 1:30 p.m.
Knocking off the defending champs will be a tall task, but Stoddard said she and her teammates are excited for the challenge.
“We need to see our pitch. (Spanish Fork pitcher) Avery (Sapp) has a very good rise ball, so select our pitch and defense-wise just knock everything like we did today, a lot of effort on the field. And then pitching-wise, just spin the heck out of the ball,” said Stoddard.
By its own lofty standards, Spanish Fork’s first game Wednesday morning in the 5A state tournament was pretty average with only five runs on three hits, although it did walk eight times to put constant pressure on on Tooele’s pitcher in the victory.
A few hours later when it took the field against Bonneville with a spot in the state championship series up for grabs, the bats woke up in a big way.
Spanish Fork pounded out 12 runs on 10 hits, including five extra base hits, as it rolled past the Lakers 12-1 to take a step closer to the 5A 3-peat.
Peyton Hall was one of the offensive stars in the win over Bonneville, as she went 2 for 3 with two home runs and four RBIs.
Her second home run was hit to dead center and nearly cleared the permanent home run fence at Cottonwood Complex well beyond the temporary fence.
The game before against Tooele she went 0 for 4 at the plate.
“In my earlier game I didn’t have my best game so this game I was just trying to relax, see the ball, hit the ball,” said Hall.
“This game was a close game for a little bit, but then we just busted it open. I feel like we (didn’t have) any doubt we were going to do it. No one was stressing.”
With the game tied 1-1 after two innings, Hall’s first home run was part of six-run third inning that gave the Dons a big 7-1 cushion.
Hall hit another home run in the fourth as Spanish Fork added five more runs to wrap up the game in five innings.
Spanish Fork coach Natalie Jarvis wasn’t sure what clicked with her players in the second game versus the first, but she was glad it did.
“In the batters box in the first game we couldn’t decide what a strike was. It seemed like it was changing all the time that we really didn’t have a handle on whatever she was pitching, whatever we were swinging at. It just didn’t seem comfortable in that first game,” she said.
Hall actually struck out in her first at-bat against Bonneville, so when she came up again the second time Jarvis purposely put added pressure on her.
With Hall’s younger sister Tatum Hall standing on first base, Jarvis gave them the hit-and-run sign so Peyton Hall had to swing at just about anything coming down the pipe.
“She’s got to protect her sister,” said Jarvis.
The result was Peyton Hall’s 11th home run of the season, and then she added her 12th an inning later.
Ellie Olson also had a big game against Bonneville, going 2 for 3 with a double, home run and four RBIs.
Spanish Fork ace Avery Sapp struck out eight batters to pick up her 19th win of the season. In the earlier win over Tooele she struck out 13 batters.