CLEARFIELD — As her team made one mental mistake after another in the opening round of the 4A state softball tournament Tuesday, no one would’ve blamed Olympus coach Cyndee Bennett for considering an early retirement.
But with the confident way her players responded to the adversity, don’t count on it anytime soon.
The visiting Titans overcame an early three-run deficit and at least a dozen mental errors both defensively and on the base paths to rally past Clearfield for a wild 9-8 victory.
“Ridiculous” is how Olympus winning pitcher Niki Eskelson summed up a game in which players threw to the wrong bag repeatedly, ran to a base a teammate already occupied, dropped fly balls in the glaring sun or just booted grounders.
The last batter of the game summed up the bizarre afternoon. With the bases loaded and two out, Clearfield’s Jayden Glade hit a blooper that Olympus third baseman Keely Heyer misjudged, but miraculously still caught by trapping the ball on her chest for the final out.
For a team that missed the playoffs last season, Bennett believes jitters played a big role in Olympus’ shaky start, but hopes that’s not an issue in Thursday’s second round at No. 1 Box Elder.
“Right now we’ve got our jitters out. I don’t believe we’re going to show those types of jitters in the next game. We’re just going to go out and play our game, and that gives us the best chance to win,” said Bennett.
The Titans’ perseverance gives them a chance too. They trailed 5-2 after the first, 6-3 after the second, and then 8-6 after the fifth, but still kept plugging away.
Timely hitting in the sixth inning eventually put Olympus ahead for good. After consecutive hits by Marissa Johnson and Tina Ford, Heyer drove them both home with a single to center to tie the game at 8-8. Three batters later, Bailey Anderson singled home the go-ahead run to right.
Eskelson narrowly shut Clearfield down the rest of the way for the victory.
“I finally realized I had pitches the batters couldn’t hit,” said Eskelson, who gave up six hits in the first three innings but only two the rest of the way.
Eskelson was stunned as anybody with how sloppy her team played defense in the first inning, but Bennett said the response is what really matters.
“Give my team credit for that, they believed in our strategy and believed they could come back and win the game no matter what the score was. They truly believed that, and I never felt like looking in that dugout that they didn’t,” said Bennett.
It would've been easy for Olympus to start doubting after five straight Clearfield batters came around to score in the first inning, but it didn't.
Ford and London Davis each went 3 for 4 to lead the Titans, while Eskelson and Heyer drove in two runs each.
Clearfield’s Lexi Andersen had a very strong day at the plate in the loss, going 3 for 3 with a double, triple, two runs scored and three RBIs. The Falcons will host Springville in a one-loss bracket game on Thursday.
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