Sometimes, the difference between winning and losing is nothing more than a short burst of energy surrounded by small, simple plays. A burst of energy came in the second inning for Salem Hills, while small and simple plays throughout the game added up to a no-hit shutout for the visiting Skyhawks, who defeated Maple Mountain 5-0 in a key Region 8 win.
Prior to Thursday's contest, Salem Hills softball coach Renae Kinghorn spoke of the kind of game she anticipated, saying, "This is a positive rivalry because Cassie (Lewis, Maple Mountain softball coach) and I are legitimate friends. We also happen to coach two very good teams so the competition is always intense. Maple Mountain plays very well at home. They have great fan base support and they feed off of the rivalry well."
Kinghorn continued, "We have been trying to get back to the fun of the game so I hope the girls come out with an intensity that is coupled with the drive to have fun and enjoy the experience. I believe we have solid pitching and are hitting the ball in clutch situations, and Maple Mountain has good speed on the bases and a 'never say die' attitude."
If you take out the big second inning by the Skyhawks, there were only two hits in the game. Unfortunately for the Golden Eagles, it takes all seven innings to win a ballgame, and the second inning put the Skyhawks in the driver's seat the rest of the way.
And what an inning it was for Salem Hills. It began with an Amelia Weight rip single and a stolen base. Left fielder Ashley Whiting followed with what would have been a home run on many other fields, but settled on a double for the RBI.
Whiting said, "I have been talking to myself all day, saying 'I see the ball, I am a good hitter, I hit the ball hard.' When the count got to two strikes, I just believed in myself, and she fed me a good high ball to hit."
Kirtlyn Bohling (eight strike-outs), who pitched a no-hitter for the Skyhawks in the game, followed with a walk, then McKenna Davis reached on a mishandled, hard-hit ball through second, loading the bases. When Golden Eagle pitcher Carly Guyman masterfully popped up two Skyhawk batters in a row, it looked like Maple Mountain might escape without too much damage. But speedy Skyhawk center fielder Tiffany Madson had other ideas.
Madson slapped for a single and an RBI as speed-up runner Courtney DeGraw crossed home. Alexis Oveson walked, filling the bases back up, and it was time for Kenzi Martin, who has been hot the past few games, to take a swing.
Martin showed she still has an eye for the ball as she drove a hard single to the outfield, scoring two additional Skyhawks. Guyman made a tough play on another hard-hit ball by Weight to end the inning, but the damage was done. In all, Salem Hills brought 10 batters to the plate, scoring all five of their runs for the game.
Maple Mountain made a charge in the bottom of the third inning, loading the bases on two walks, one each by Mckenzie Mecham and Sydnie Wilson and a Skyhawk error. Salem Hills had the answer, however, and picked up a strike-out and a pop-up to end the threat.
"We came together," Kinghorn said. "Sometimes we play individually, but today we had a new player on the field (Gentry Cole filled in for shortstop Abbie Tuttle who injured her hand in Monday's game against Alta), and the girls just knew they needed to help her out by talking more."
It seemed to help as Cole hit the only other Skyhawk base hit after the second inning.
"Maple Mountain is typically tough and scrappy at home, but our girls played through that third innnig challenge," Kinghorn said. "I am proud of them. For us, there is no room to relax. We have three big games next week. We have to continue to play with intention."
Salem Hills faces Bear River, Provo and Springville next week as the Skyhawks try to continue building momentum. Maple Mountain faces Provo, Spanish Fork and Mountain Crest.
Troy Bohling can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.