ST. GEORGE — Some players go their whole careers and never hit a home run. Others just wait until the moment is right.
Stansbury senior Jocelyn Kaufmann belted a two-out, bases loaded fifth-inning home run over the left-field fence and lifted her team to a 6-2 victory over Bear River Friday evening at Little Valley in southern Utah, sending the Lady Stallions to the 3A state tournament's championship game.
"It felt like a dream," Kaufmann said. "I've done it before, where I thought I had hit it out and didn't and felt like an idiot. I took a glance when I first hit it and knew it had a chance. One step past first base I realized it was out and then I started crying."
It's been exactly a month since Stansbury, 28-2, lost a game. Since that 4-1 loss to these same Bear River Bears, the Stallions have reeled off 12 straight wins. In the state playoffs, Stansbury has outscored its opponents 36-2, including a 16-0 win over previously undefeated Snow Canyon.
Now the Stallions will play for the state title (Saturday at noon) and will have to be beaten twice, not a likely proposition considering the way Stansbury has been playing.
"We have really been doing all the right things," said coach Bridget Clinton. "We pride ourselves on our defense and we've worked really hard to get here."
As usual, the defense was solid in this game and sophomore pitcher Kimbri Herring was lights out. She allowed five hits and just one earned run.
"Everyone was solid," Clinton said. "From the pitching to the defense to my catcher hitting her first home run. It was a team effort."
The two teams have an intense history, having tied for the Region 10 title with identical 10-1 region records. Before Friday, they had split their two meetings this year with Stansbury winning at Bear River 7-4 in March and the Bears taking a 4-1 win at Stansbury in April.
"We know each other so well," Clinton said. "We certainly know what to expect from each other. They're a great team."
The Stallions led early after Katelyn Robinson singled home Janessa Basset in the top of the first inning. It stayed 1-0 until the fifth inning when the Stallions put a big-time rally together.
With one out, Basset singled for one of her three hits on the day. Beth Chipman then walked and Robinson loaded the bases with another single. Karlee Manzione made it a 2-0 lead with a solid single to center, bringing Kaufmann to the plate.
"When I was in the on-deck circle, I was thinking, 'Oh man, this could be it,’ ” Kaufmann said. "On the bus today, my teammates told me today was going to be the day when I finally hit one out. I could hardly see after it went out. I was just trying to make sure I touched every base."
Her grand slam made it 6-0. Bear River scored a run in the fifth on a Brenna Hinck RBI and added one more in the sixth on the lone Stansbury error, but could get no closer. The Bears had two runners on in the seventh, but a double play and a pop-up ended the game.
It was a landmark day for the fourth-year school located west of Salt Lake in Stansbury Park. The Stallions have never played in a state championship game in any sport.
Andy Griffin is a southern Utah broadcaster and sports writer and has been involved in covering sports in Utah, including professional, college and high school sports, since 1989.