Bountiful’s Annie Salazar saw her opportunity and pounced on it.
Salazar was on third base — with the score tied in the bottom of an extra inning — when her teammate, Shambre Maestas, hit a ground ball straight to Farmington pitcher Delaney Baker. Baker glanced at Salazar on third, but it appeared as though she wasn’t budging from the base.
Baker threw Maestas out at first, but Salazar saw her window, bolted for the home plate and scored the walk-off run to give Bountiful a narrow 5-4 victory over Farmington High.
“When I was on base, I knew I had to score because we did not want (the game) to go to another inning,” Salazar said of the final sequence. “When (Maestas) hit back to the pitcher, I was like, ‘As soon as she throws this ball I’m going no matter what.’ So I went, and when I saw the catcher drop the ball I was like, ‘It’s done. I did my job.’”
Salazar said that Baker made the correct play to throw the ball to first, but that she was just unlucky that it was her who was the runner on third.
“(Baker) definitely made a good choice, because I was going to go for it at first, but she checked me before she threw it,” Salazar said. “She made the right choice, she just had the wrong person on base.”
Both teams were undefeated in region play coming into the game, but with the win, Bountiful handed the Phoenix their first loss and claimed the top spot in Region 5. The teams were also neighbors in the 5A state rankings, as Bountiful sat at No. 3 and Farmington was at No. 4.
“It’s huge for us,” Salazar said of the victory. “We wanted to defend our home turf and we’re ranked pretty close to each other, so we wanted to make a statement with this game.”
Bountiful head coach Butch Latey said that his team has fast base runners, so making decisions like the one made on Salazar’s game-winning play are no-brainers for them. The swift base running was on display throughout the game when Bountiful recorded a handful of stolen bases.
“We have two or three really fast girls, and so I like to do whatever I can with them,” Latey said. “In the case of the last play, you might as well go for broke because if they don’t make the play, we score and it’s over. If they throw her out, we still get another inning.”
Both teams displayed some excellent pitching. Baker threw for Farmington and sophomore Eva Stoddard threw for Bountiful.
“When (Shambre Maestas) hit back to the pitcher, I was like, ‘As soon as she throws this ball I’m going no matter what.’ So I went, and when I saw the catcher drop the ball I was like, ‘It’s done. I did my job.’” — Bountiful’s Annie Salazar
Latey said that Baker, who finished with 14 strikeouts, presented a significant challenge for his side, but he was glad his players battled and got some hits while facing her.
“I thought (Baker) threw the ball well today,” Latey said. “We knew we had to put the ball in play because every time we’ve played her, when we put the ball in play, good things have happened.”
Salazar and Livi Arona had the best luck against Baker, as both recorded solo home runs in the fourth and fifth innings, respectively.
Latey said that even though Stoddard’s individual performance may be overshadowed by Baker’s, he thought Stoddard’s play was his team’s bright spot.
“Our pitching really was our greatest strength today. They’ve got some experienced hitters, so I think (Stoddard) did a pretty good job against them,” Latey said.
The game was a back-and-forth ball game in the truest sense. Each time one side took the lead, the other would tie it back up within one inning.
Latey was proud of the way his players responded each time they found themselves trailing and said that the win will provide them some much needed breathing room as they continue forward through the season.
“It’s a really good win because we’re going to have to play them again at their place,” Latey said. “So who knows what’ll happen then. It could be the same (type of game) though.”
Farmington will look to avenge the loss when the two teams square off again in Farmington on May 4.