Box score

Bountiful needed three outs to clinch the Region 5 title on Thursday, but Box Elder had other ideas.

The visiting Bees tied things up with a run in the top of the seventh, and in extra innings their bats exploded for six runs as they pulled away for the impressive 11-6 victory in spoiling Bountiful’s region title celebration.

Both teams now sit at 8-1 in the region standings with one game to go.

For Box Elder, a win next Tuesday against a Northridge team it already beat by 15 runs will clinch at least a share of the Region 5 title for the first time since 2017.

“It’s been a long time since Box Elder brought any hardware home. We’re not done, we’ve got to go beat Northridge Tuesday, but it’s a good place to be,” said Box Elder coach Brian Merrill, whose team last won a trophy with a 5A state title in 2018.

Earlier this week Box Elder lost an extra inning game to 4A power Ridgeline 7-6, and Merrill believes that loss helped relax his players during Thursday’s extra innings.

“The first time you play an extra game against a good team it makes you nervous. But our girls had just done it so they knew what was expected,” said Merrill.

Malena Benson was the hero at the plate for Box Elder as she went 4 for 5 with a double, home run and six RBIs. Her RBI single in the top of the seventh helped send the game into extra innings, and then in the eighth her bases-clearing double was the dagger as it pushed an 8-5 lead to 11-5.

“She’s showing why she’s one of the best hitters in the state,” said Merrill.

Benson’s six RBIs raised her season total to 47, which ranks third in the entire state.

None of her late-inning heroics would’ve been possible without relief pitcher Kellie Malan.

Bountiful tagged starter Ashley Hammers pretty good through 1 2/3 innings with five runs as it built an early 5-2 lead. Malan came in and didn’t allow a run until the eighth inning in a commanding performance as she struck out four and scattered five hits over 6 1/3 innings.

She pitched out of a big jam in the bottom of the seventh with the bases loaded as Bountiful stranded the winning run on third. By the time she took the mound in the eighth she had the luxury of a six-run cushion.

“She changed the dynamics of the game. Our starting pitcher was struggling and they’d hit her pretty good, and she came in and just stabilized us and threw balls that allowed our girls to make plays,” said Merrill.