Story and photos by Kurt Johnson
AMERICAN FORK – A day after a huge home win over Riverton that avenged an earlier defeat this season, the Lehi High softball team barely survived a visit to American Fork Friday afternoon. The Cavemen were 60 feet away from the tying run in the bottom of the seventh stanza, but the Pioneers got the final out to complete a 5-4 win.
The Pioneers used a solid pitching performance from Stefani Zimmerman to hold off the Cavemen, and Zimmerman delivered two huge hits to provide much of the offense her team needed on a day that lacked the explosive hitting display Lehi had delivered just 24 hours earlier. In that game, the Pioneers were battling Riverton for postseason positioning near the top of the league standings, but today, they were looking to fend off a challenge from an American Fork team looking for just its second region victory.
Lehi got on the board in the first inning, as Sydney White scored on a Taylor Tahbo groundout to put the Pioneers on top 1-0. Zimmerman followed with the first of her two doubles in the contest, but they were unable to get her home.
A dropped fly ball and a passed ball helped Lehi double the advantage in the top half of the second, and then White made it 3-0 with a run-scoring single. The Pioneers, however, were not able to pull away and left the door open for American Fork.
The Cavemen narrowed the gap in the home half of the third, as a walk and a Savana Stephenson single set the stage for Anna Vargason, and she delivered with a two-run double that pulled her team within a single run at 3-2.
Strong defensive plays from Stephenson at short and centerfielder Brianna Clark on the American Fork side, as well as shortstop White and second baseman Abby Padilla for Lehi backed the pitching of Zimmerman and Caveman pitcher Shawnee Hillman as the game went to the fifth at 3-2.
Then, the Pioneer bats temporarily awoke, as Rylin Roberts ripped a one-out triple in the fifth. The third baseman scored on an errant throw that came as a result of a double steal, and the Zimmerman delivered another run with her second two-bagger to get the lead to 5-2.
That number held until the last of the seventh, when an American Fork rally threatened to erase the positive impact of Thursday’s Lehi win over Riverton. A hit batter and a walk set the table for the Cavemen, and with one out, Stephenson drilled a hot shot toward third. Roberts made the play and got the force out at her own bag.
Catcher Tristan Tausinga was not finished, however, as she lifted a long fly ball to the fence in left field. The ball got to the ground for a double that scored two runs and trimmed the margin to just one run, but Zimmerman got a ground ball to Padilla at second to finish off the home team and keep the defending state champion Pioneers in a second-place tie in Region 4.
American Fork (1-4 in Region 4, 9-11 overall) has three games next week, beginning with a visit to Westlake (2-4, 10-10) at 3:30 p.m. Monday.
Win Over Riverton
Thursday, three-run home runs by Taylor Tahbo and White got Lehi out to a 6-0 lead against Riverton, and the Pioneers eventually built a nine-run advantage on a windy day on their home field. The Pioneers cruised home from there behind White’s pitching, although it got a little interesting before the 9-5 final score was recorded.
That was a critical win for Lehi (5-2, 14-6) because it had lost an eight-inning decision to the Silverwolves (5-2, 11-4) earlier in the season. Getting this one puts the two teams in a dead heat for second place behind Region 4 front-runner Herriman (7-0, 15-2).
The Pioneers are at Pleasant Grove (3-4, 6-12) at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, while Riverton hosts Herriman that same afternoon.