High school softball: Salem Hills soars to school's first-ever state title

Published: Thursday, May 23 2013 11:05 p.m. MDT

Salem Hills High School celebrates its 4A softball championship win against Box Elder High at the Valley Regional Softball Complex in Salt Lake City on Thursday, May 23, 2013.

Laura Seitz, Deseret News

TAYLORSVILLE — Call it redemption, vindication or simply validation if you want. But this could be the start of something big.

Salem Hills High School has only been around for five years, but the Skyhawks have already built a powerhouse prep softball program. And on Thursday, a year after losing in the 4A state title game, they took home the first state championship of any kind in the Utah County school’s brief but impressive history with a thrilling 3-2 victory over Box Elder at the Valley Complex.

Junior right-hander Kirtlyn Bohling pitched a gritty complete-game victory, allowing six hits and one earned run. And her defense, led by slick sophomore shortstop Abbie Tuttle, did its job to turn back a strong Box Elder ball club that lost only three ballgames all season long — including two to Salem Hills in the state tournament.

What’s more, the Skyhawks’ starting lineup has only one senior, catcher Kaylee Simons, while the rest of them are just juniors and sophomores. So they’ll definitely be a force to be reckoned with in the future, with another strong shot at a state title again next year.

“I mean, people should be a little bit nervous, but don’t put that in the paper,” said Salem Hills coach Renae Kinghorn. “We’re gonna be tough; we are tough. “I am grateful to coach such talent. I wish that it had anything to do with me, but I just have to get out of their way and let them play. They come to me with incredibly good skills and I just have to tell them that they can do it, and they’re strong.”

Indeed they are. With Bohling in the circle making it tough for opposing teams’ batters to get on base, and Tuttle and Co. doing their thing defensively, the Skyhawks (24-3) make it mighty difficult for teams to scratch out many runs against them.

But Box Elder (26-3) managed to do that in the first inning when sophomore Sadie Blacker smacked a double to the left-field fence, stole third base and came home on Molly Horne’s sacrifice fly.

Salem Hills tied it at 1-1 in its half of the first when Tuttle reached base on a fielder’s choice, advanced on Bohling’s single to center and scored on Ashley Whiting’s RBI single to left.

It remained deadlocked until the fourth inning, when Simons sliced a lead-off triple into the right-field corner. Two batters later, Kenzie Martin’s ground-out brought home speed-up runner Courtney DeGraw with the go-ahead run and a 2-1 lead.

Then in the fifth inning, Tuttle led off with a towering drive over the center-field fence to make it 3-1.

“I had been hitting all game, so I was like, ‘I just need another hit to get this thing started,’ ” Tuttle said of her big at-bat. “That came out and, I mean, it was perfect. I kinda had that feeling (that it was gone), and it felt good.

“We’ve got five sophomores starting. They said this would be the rebuilding year, but we definitely proved that wrong and we’re the same team next year, too, so we’re definitely ready to come back.

“It feels so good, especially being the first in school history, it does feel good,” Tuttle said.

“That was huge,” Simons said of Tuttle’s solo shot. “Abbie has been so clutch on our team and a great defender, and we really couldn’t do it without her. She’s amazing.”

But the Bees wouldn’t go quietly. In the sixth, Box Elder’s Baylee Reeves singled, advanced on a rare Salem Hills error and scored on an RBI single by Myranda Hernandez.

Then in the seventh, the Bees threatened again when Blacker, who was 3-for-4 and reached base in all four of her at-bats, smacked a one-out single and moved to second on an intentional walk to Molly Horne.