High school softball: Malia Campos' clutch hit lifts Spartans
Tom Smart, Deseret News
TAYLORSVILLE — Malia Campos wasn't about to see her senior season slip away.
With two outs, two runners on base and the score tied, she stepped into the batter's box and delivered a single that drove in the go-ahead runs for Murray High in its 5A quarterfinal clash Wednesday at Valley Complex.
"I'm not going to lie," she said after the Spartans slipped past Taylorsville 4-2. "I was really nervous. I knew we had to get those runs in. Being down in the count was tough."
Campos ripped a single to right-center field but was thrown out trying to stretch it into a double.
"It's me," she said, admitting her coach did not tell her to keep running. "I'm such an aggressive base runner that sometimes I think I'm invincible. Sometimes I have a little too much confidence in myself."
Campos said many of the Spartans' players feel a sense of urgency in what is their final prep season.
"For a lot of us, this is our senior year because we do feel a lot of pressure," said Campos who will play for SLCC next season. "That's what is really motivating us."
But it wasn't just the six Spartan seniors who were nervous about trying to earn a win in the 5A playoffs. Junior pitcher Elise Johnson was equally anxious when coaches told her she'd be in the circle for the big game.
"I was really nervous," she said. "It's a big game and I've never played in that kind of an environment."
One of Murray's assistant coaches kept telling her they had confidence in her and asking her a question that helped her keep the fear at bay.
"She kept saying, 'Can you feel the vibes?' " said Johnson, who just got stronger in the later innings. "It was fun. It was intense because every little play is huge."
Head coach Lisa Parker said there was little doubt in any of their minds that Johnson was the right pitcher for the critical game.
"She came through and did a great job," Parker said. "It was a huge, huge win."
Campos said watching Johnson throw Wednesday's win was exciting.
"I just sit in center field and watch her balls move," she said. "It's amazing. I love it."
The Spartans also had help from third baseman Maddy Woodard, who went 3-for-3 with an RBI.
Errors cost Taylorsville, as three of Murray's four runs were unearned.
"Murray runs the bases hard and they force you to make the plays," said head coach Rich Kaelin. "Tonight we didn't make the plays."
Taylorsville third baseman Erin Romero drove in both of the Warriors' runs with a double in the second inning.
Kaelin told his players to prepare for a serious mental challenge today.
"The hardest game to play is the first game after this," he said. "The team you're playing is just coming off a win and you're dealing with a loss. It will depend on your mindset; how do you feel about yourself?"
Wednesday's loss was the first in the tournament for the Warriors, who will have to regroup to play a hot Bingham Miners squad today.
For Murray, the next challenge is facing Roy in today's 6:45 p.m. semifinal matchup.