TAYLORSVILLE — It was humiliating and unfamiliar territory for the Bear River softball team.
It took Spanish Fork just three innings to score 16 runs against a team that hadn't lost a playoff game in 24 contests. It was the mercy rule that ended the game 16-0 in an hour, and the Bears had just 20 minutes to regroup before facing that same line-up that had scored 66 runs in four games against the best teams in 3A for a final shot at the state's softball championship.
"That was definitely embarrassing," said senior center fielder Morgan Summers after the Bears came back to win an unprecedented fifth straight 3A state title with an 8-0 shutout of Spanish Fork in the "what-if" game of the double elimination tournament. "But it turned out to be a good thing. It made us mad and we were able to use that to bounce back. It gave us fire, that's for sure."
Maybe the most battered by the unexpected rout was junior pitcher Jordan Theurer. In two years as a starter she has never been pulled from a game. She was understandably upset when Bears coach Calvin Bingham called his third time out with the Bears trailing 9-0 and moved her to third base.
Bingham said he knew the game was lost and wanted to save the reigning MVP's energy for what he believed would be a difficult second game, which fortunately the Bears had because they defeated Spanish Fork 6-5 on Saturday in the tournament's third round of play. But even the veteran coach wasn't sure what strategy to employ because he'd never seen his team respond the way they did.
"I want to tell you that was planned," said Bingham with a grin as his team took pictures with the championship trophy. "I hoped things would change, but it didn't look good. They absolutely shelled us and we really lost our composure."
Trailing 9-0 in the third inning, Bingham made a difficult call by pulling Theurer.
"I told her I wanted to give her a rest," he said. "I didn't want to wear her out."
Ever the competitor, she did not want to leave the game — even though most everyone acknowledge it was a lost cause.
"She's a hard-nosed player,' said Bingham with another grin. "She wants to win and she does everything she can to make that happen. But I thought it best to pull her out."
Theurer said didn't want to leave the circle.
"I wanted to stay in and try to fight," she admitted. "But it was smart of my coaches to pull me and let me rest."
The soft-spoken junior said it is difficult not to dwell on mistakes, but at the urging of her coaches and teammates she did her best to stop "replaying it in my head."
And there was a lot to replay.
Spanish Fork's offense was dominating from the opening pitch as the batters pounded 16 hits. Senior Kylee Wolf led the team with a 3-for-3 performance and one double. Kayla Larson also had a double in the win.
Senior pitcher Kailey Christensen and the Dons' defense made no errors and allowed only two Bear River hits in the first game.
But whatever happened in the 20 minutes between games changed everything.
"I told Stan (Haramoto, Bear River assistant), I think they pulled a funny one on us," said Spanish Fork head coach Don Andrews after the Dons lost 8-0 to finish in second place. "They traded teams with us that first inning."
The Bears came out and scored seven runs in the opening inning and then managed to hold that potent Spanish Fork offense to just three hits en route to a 8-0 win. It surprised everyone that the two teams that battled for 10 innings on Saturday would have such lopsided wins against each other two days later.
"That was huge, especially that we got them down by seven," said Bingham. "That put them on their heels. That changes your whole strategy. I really thought the second game would be a one or two run game. I thought they had a 50 percent chance to win it. They're that good."
Bingham didn't like the odds for his team after how they collapsed in the first game of the day.
"I thought we had about a 10 percent chance to come back," said Bingham, acknowledging that losing that badly can be impossible to overcome mentally.
"I just felt like they had the momentum, and it was going to take a real special effort to stop that (from happening again)," he said.
Fortunately his team had a really special effort in them.
"I'm as shocked as anybody," he said of how the Bears bounced back from the beating to shut out the Dons. "I couldn't believe it."
Of the seven state titles his teams have won, Monday's stands out as something special.
"This is the sweetest," he said. "We played an outstanding team."
And Andrews hopes his players can realize what they accomplished this season.
"It's disappointing," said Andrews, "but that's a pretty darn good season for them."
3A All-Tournament Team
MVP: Jordan Theurer, B. River
Morgan Summers, B. River
Aleisha Taylor, Bear River
Erin Fox, Bear River
Shaunie Owen, Bear River
Kylee Wolf, Spanish Fork
Kelli Hales, Spanish Fork
Kailey Chirstensen, Sp. Fork
McKinley Brinkerhoff, Sp. Fork
Brytni Gurney, Snow Canyon
Jessica Nakken, Cedar
Maddie Chadwick, Wasatch
Celeste Wooton, Wasatch
Beth Chipman, Stansbury
Drew Smuin, Uintah
Josie Platt, Canyon View