PROVO — Eleanor Talia had hoped her first two RBI base hits would be enough to win the game.
But Provo ended up needing — and getting — one more big hit from her.
Talia smashed a walk-off home run over the right-field fence to give the Bulldogs a 6-5 win over Maple Mountain on Thursday in the final regular-season game for both teams. The victory secured Region 8's second seed in the playoffs for Provo while also helping the team enter the postseason with some momentum after a defeat to Salem Hills on Tuesday.
Talia wasn't shy about the team's confidence heading into the 4A tournament.
"Salem Hills played a good game against us. We just couldn't hit. We knew we had to step it up because we wanted to take second. If we can't take first, we're going to take second no matter what. All I have to say is state had better watch out, 'cause we're coming"
At the very least, Thursday's game provided a glimpse of the competition both teams can look forward to in the playoffs. The Bulldogs and Golden Eagles each led at various stages of the game, only to see the opposition strike back in a contest that featured five lead changes.
Talia started the game the way she finished it, knocking in a run to put the Bulldogs ahead in the first inning. Maple Mountain answered in the third, getting hits from Leslie Thomas and Kayle Ellis before a passed ball allowed Thomas to score.
The Golden Eagles scored again in the fifth inning on a sacrifice fly from BritLee Anderson. The Bulldogs responded in the bottom of the same inning, getting back-to-back doubles from Megan Ventura and Taylor Allman for one run before Ventura's second RBI base hit put Provo up 3-2.
Again Maple Mountain evened the score. Shaniya Jacobson hit a double and advanced on a well-placed bunt from Taylor Reynolds before scoring on a wild pitch.
The Golden Eagles took their largest lead of the game in the seventh inning on a two-run home run from Anderson, putting Maple Mountain in a position to tie Provo for second in the region.
Provo head coach Jesse Ventura was only too glad that Talia had other ideas.
"That's her job. We have at the top of the order Megan and Taylor. They get on base, and her job is to bring them home. And that's exactly what she did."
Talia credited the seniors, who were playing in their final home regular-season game of their high school careers, for her confidence at the plate.
"It's a lot of confidence from the seniors," Talia said. "Megan Ventura, I can't thank her enough. She's like my other sister. She's the one who picked me up."
Provo will host Bonneville in the first round of the 4A state softball playoffs, while Maple Mountain will travel to Mountain Crest for its opening-round game.
Matt Petersen is the sports web editor for DeseretNews.com. You can follow him on Twitter at @TheMattPetersen.