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TAYLORSVILLE — Having thoroughly enjoyed winning state 4A softball championship last year, Roy decided to do it again — defeating Salem Hills in the finals 5-2. While the ultimate prize is the same as last year's, it's about the only thing that the two teams hold in common.
Last year anything short of a state championship was deemed as a failure while this year's team took a different attitude.
"If we didn't win it all last year, then it would have been the worst season of my life and that's what makes this one so sweet and so fun because we weren't expected to do it," said coach Amanda Koford. "(The players) didn't care. They went out there with the attitude that we're going to play until they won't let us and luckily for us, we got to keep playing."
With Salem Hills holding a 2-1 lead in the third inning, Mitchell belted a three-run homer to give the Royals the lead for good. It was the second night in a row that Mitchell provided the game-winning hit for her team.
"I love Bryce Mitchell and she has a big place in my heart," said Koford.
"She's the type of kid that you can't help but cheer for and I'm so glad that she got to have her big moments here at state."
A bit later in the inning, Jordynn Barrera added an RBI double to put her team up 5-2 which proved to be the final score.
Barrera played the role of catalyst throughout the tournament, leading off the bottom of the first inning with a double and then scoring the Royals' first run of the game.
"Barrera is absolutely amazing and there's not a better lead-off hitter in the state" said Koford. "When I pitched I knew that there was nothing wors ethan having a leadoff get a hit off you and she did that every single game.
She's a phenomenal player both offensive and defensively and I'm lucky to have her one more year."
Salem Hills responded immediately to Barrera's opening run with Brooke Ford and Haley Ingram leading off the second inning with back-to-back home runs.
It was something that could have flustered a lot of pitchers, but not senior Jamie Aiken who proceeded to strike out the next three batters and hold Skyhawks scoreless for the remainder of the game.
"(Aiken) is the most stable and mentally tough kid that I know," said Koford. "She doesn't care, she doesn't get too high and she doesn't get too low — she just goes out there and gives you everything that she has."
"We're used to fighting back and coming back with more runs," added Aiken.
"You let it burn and you just fight your way back and come out with more fire.
As always, Roy's crowd offered a huge amount of support — filling up the stadium while providing boisterous cheers throughout the contest.
"What Roy has a lot of if fans," said Koford. "With their support I knew that if we came down to (Taylorsville) that that crowd would bring them to the level that we needed to play at and we're lucky to have the community that we do."
Despite the loss in the final game, Salem Hills finished off a remarkable run after losing its second-round game to Box Elder. The Skyhawks went onto win five straight elimination games — including a win against Box Elder— to reach the final game.
"I'm so proud of this team for coming back after losing to Box Elder in the second round," said coach Renae Clarke. "This team has so much heart and a lot of fight, so I'm seriously proud of their effort. It obviously didn't turn out like we wanted, but Roy is a good team and you have to hand it to them. We're a good team too though and I couldn't be more proud as their coach."
With two state championships in a row (last year's was in 5A) under its belt, Roy looks to be building a bit of a legacy.
"For us seniors we just wanted to leave a legacy on the field — to be legends of softball, so we wanted to wrap it up like that," said Aiken.
For Koford, two championships in a row is great and all, but even more significant for her is seeing her players upbeat at the end of the day.
"All you want as a coach is to see your girls bouncing up and down at the end of a game — you know you've done something right if everyone is happy at the end of the day," she said.
4A All-Tournament Team
MVP: Bryce Mitchell, Roy
Jordynn Barrera, Roy
Jamie Aiken, Roy
Courtney Moody, Salem Hills
Kirtlyn Bohling, Salem Hills
Brooke Ford, Salem HillsComment on this story
Elise Johnson, Murray
Karly Bunderson, Box Elder
Vanessa Quintero, Box Elder