High school softball: Royals' unlikely march will end in familiar territory
Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
TAYLORSVILLE — Roy's softball team has won two of the past three state championships, but the Royals' march through this year's tourney might be the most fun coach Amanda Koford has ever had.
The Region 5 runner-up, not much was expected of Roy heading into this year's 4A tourney, but the resilient Royals will play for the state championship Thursday after rallying past Murray for the 9-6 win at the Valley Complex on Wednesday night.
"This will be our fourth year in a row at this game. To be completely honest with you, I've never been this excited. In past years I've felt the pressure of how are we going to do this, how are we going to make this happen, but these girls have stepped up and made it easy to believe in them and easy to believe in their goals," said Koford.
Trailing 6-5 heading into the top of the seventh, Roy capitalized on a pair of Murray errors with four runs to build the comfortable lead.
Jordynn Barrera led off the inning with a clutch single to center, and then advanced to second when Murray's center fielder bobbled the ball. Following a walk to Brittnee Higgs, Payton Palmer hit a dribbler up the first baseline, but a throwing error at first base allowed Barrera to race home to level the score at 6-6.
Murray's pitcher seemed to settle down with two straight outs, but Bryce Mitchell came up with a clutch two-run single to give the Royals an 8-6 lead.
"Yesterday I had a horrible game, I didn't hit anything, today I just set in my mind that I have to have at least one good hit, and I got on every time today," said Mitchell, who finished the game 2 for 4.
In the bottom of the seventh, Roy's pitcher made quick work of Murray, setting the Spartans down in order.
With the victory, Roy advances to Thursday's championship game at 5 p.m. It awaits the winner of the Murray-Salem Hills game at 2:45 p.m.
Salem Hills beat Bountiful and Box Elder in the one-loss bracket to advance to the final day of the 4A state tournament. The 10 SkyHawk seniors missed their graduation because of it, but they were still able to enjoy a cap-and-gown ceremony on the field following their 3-0 win over Box Elder on Wednesday night.
In the winners bracket, Roy's big seventh inning was its second big inning of the game.
After Murray jumped out to a 3-0 lead after the fourth inning, Roy responded with five runs in the fifth inning, capitalizing on a pair of Murray errors.
The Spartans answered right back though. In the bottom of the fifth, Kenzie Gray led off the inning with a line drive home run to tie the game at 5-5, but after a Roy error allowed Karly Johnson to reach first base, Elise Johnson crushed a home run to right field that cleared the fence by 50 to 60 feet.
Mitchell, a senior who's no stranger to big state tournament games, tried to settle her team down after blowing the lead, reminding them there were still two innings to regain the lead.
"I wasn't worried, I was trying to get my team up and make sure they weren't worried because I knew we could win this 'cause we've done it before," said Mitchell.
Along with Mitchell's multi-hit game, Kylee Blau added three hits for the Royals, with Sammy Stockwell and Barrera chipping in with a pair as well.