SPANISH FORK — The San Juan softball team doesn't exactly feel like an underdog.
But the Broncos do think there might be a perception that this year’s team isn’t as strong as last year’s 2A championship-winning squad.
“We just think everyone thinks we’re not as good as we were last year,” said senior Justin Hutchins, who had a double in third-ranked San Juan’s 6-0 victory over second-ranked South Summit Thursday night. “I think we’re a better team.”
The Broncos are not on the verge of breaking a state record for most home runs by a team like they were last season, but Hutchins said their focus is different this spring.
Her teammate agreed.
“We’ve been working on base hits,” said junior pitcher Tatiana Su’e Su’e, the reigning Deseret News Ms. Softball. “Our on-base percentage is better this year.”
The Broncos entered the tournament with more losses than they had last season, with the most significant defeats coming to other 2A contenders, including top-ranked Manti, South Summit, Emery and Gunnison. Thursday's victory avenged an earlier loss to the Wildcats, and it gives the Broncos momentum and confidence as they move on to face Gunnison Friday afternoon at 2 p.m. Manti and Enterprise will square off in the other winners bracket game.
Hutchins and Su’e Su’e said they'll just try to focus on what’s right in front of them, instead of what expectations might be among those outside the dugout.
“We just play softball,” Su’e Su’e said.
San Juan got on the scoreboard first when Hutchins scored on Natalia Swenson’s single. She scored again in the fourth inning on Heidi Hiatt’s single. Hutchins finished 3 for 3 with a double and scored three times.
Su’e Su’e, who recently earned the Utah Governor’s State of Sport Award for Best Female High School Athlete in 2013, finished with 10 strikeouts. She said her job got a lot easier when her teammates put some runs on the board.
“It was a relief,” she said smiling.
San Juan coach Craig Swenson said he doubts many teams are overlooking the Broncos, but their strategy isn’t to worry about what anyone else may or may not think about their chances of defending the title.
“We just have to stay focused on each game,” he said. The weather caused a few issues Thursday and threatened to move Friday’s semifinal games at 2 p.m., as well. Swenson said they’d just try to be ready to play whenever there was a break in the rain.
He said Su’e Su’e’s win at the Governor’s State of Sport Awards was a victory for the entire community of Blanding.
“It was huge,” he said smiling.
In other quarterfinal games:
Manti defeated Emery 13-2 in six innings thanks to four home runs. Amanda Naylor, Kali Thomson, Ashlie Stevens and Lizzy Palmer each had home runs in the victory. Naylor also had two doubles and scored three times for the top-ranked team. Thompson also earned the win in the circle for Manti.
McKayla Clark hit a one-run home run for the Spartans in the loss.
Enterprise defeated South Sevier 7-2 behind the pitching of Dakota Robinson. Jaycee Reber, Robinson and McKenzy Huntsman each had doubles in the victory that allows the Wolves to advance to Friday’s semifinal against Manti.
Gunnison defeated Grand 6-5 behind the pitching of Sadie Sorenson. Rhiley McArthur’s single drove in the game-winning run to end the game in the Bulldogs' favor. Gunnison will take on San Juan at 2 p.m. in Friday’s semifinal round.
In other tournament games:
Emery def. Rowland Hall 16-0
Manti def. Kanab 15-0
Enterprise def. ALA 15-0
S. Sevier def. Duchesne 16-2
Gunnison def. Millard 4-2
Grand def. Altamont 4-1
San Juan def. Parowan 14-3
S. Summit def. Delt 16-2
In the one-loss bracket:
Kanab def. Rowland Hall 21-1
ALA def. Duchesne 8-1
Millard def. Altamont 16-3
Delta def. Parowan 10-9
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