Story and photos by Kurt Johnson
SPRINGVILLE – The Spanish Fork High softball team had already clinched the Region 8 championship long before it arrived at Springville to close out the regular season Thursday against the Red Devils. Springville, on the other hand, needed a win to lock up the league’s No. 2 seed and avoid the dreaded coin toss to determine playoff positioning.
Regardless of what was on the line for whom, both teams played like it was the opening round of postseason play and the result was a nine-inning struggle between two of the state’s best teams and two of its most talented pitchers. The Lady Dons plated a pair of runs in the top half of the ninth and then held on to claim a 6-5 victory that completed a perfect 12-0 run through region play.
Facing Red Devil ace Kaycie Jensen, Spanish Fork struck first in the top of the first inning, plating a run without benefit of a hit. Mallory Barber drew a lead-off walk and stole second before advancing to third on Brylee Rudd’s fly ball to right field and then scoring on a sacrifice fly to left off the bat of Jordyn Bate.
Springville pulled even with a couple of hits sandwiched between a trio of strikeouts against Dons’ star pitcher Cambrie Hazel in the second. Rylee Harris doubled with one out, and then after the second strikeout of the inning, Tiana Ta’ala delivered the two-out run-scoring single.
The Dons picked up their first hits of the day in the third as singles by Barber and Rudd followed a walk to load the bases with one out. Bate delivered the big hit, a two-run single that put Spanish Fork on top 3-1.
Jensen helped her own cause in the home half of the inning, chasing home a run with a base hit, but Hazel escaped with a one-run advantage intact when she got a huge strikeout with the bags jammed. The 3-2 score held up until the Red Devils came to the plate in the fifth frame as Natalie Sumsion singled and advanced 60 feet on a passed ball, which put her in position to score on Mary Frederickson’s base hit.
Then, the heroics began. Sydnee Morgan was the first to take a shot at delivering the game-winner. She came to the plate as a pinch hitter for Springville in the bottom of the sixth and blasted a home run just inside the foul pole down the left field line.
Haylie Smith wasted little time making sure Morgan’s blast would not decide the outcome. She led off the top half of the seventh with a long ball of her own to tie the game once again, this time at 4-4.
As the game went to extra innings, Jensen gave her team a chance to win it in the eighth when she set down the side in order in the top half. With a runner at second base to open the stanza, per tiebreaker rules, Spanish Fork did not get the bunt down to advance the runner and a pair of pop-outs combined with a strikeout were the story of the Dons’ turn.
The Red Devils did execute a sacrifice bunt to open their half of the eighth, putting a runner at third with just one out. After getting a pop fly out to first base for the second out, Hazel hit a batter on an 0-2 pitch and then walked Sadie Clark, who had two hits in the game, on four pitches to load the bases. A ground ball to third ended the inning and the battle continued into the ninth.
Spanish Fork caught a break opening its half of the ninth when an error on the bunt attempt put runners at the corners. A second sacrifice bunt, by Hazel scored a run and then Barber blooped a single over first base to chase home another one.
Springville picked up a run on a sacrifice fly in the home half, but Hazel ended the contest with a strikeout as the Lady Dons held on for the win.
A year ago, the last three teams standing in the Class 4A softball state tournament were from Region 8 and these two teams were among them, with Spanish Fork winning the state title. Both teams have to be considered among the favorites as the tournament begins next week.
Springville (8-4 in Region 8, 20-8 overall) finished in a three-way tie, with Uintah and Maple Mountain, for second place in Region 8 and the Red Devils won the coin toss be seeded No. 2 in the postseason. That means they open the playoffs on their home field Tuesday when the No. 3 team from Region 6, Cyprus (8-4 Region 6, 9-6 overall), comes to town.