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Manti represents community, families and teammates in earning the 2A softball state title

Published: Saturday, May 10 2014 8:55 p.m. MDT

Manti celebrates winning the 2A state championship softball game against San Juan at the Spanish Fork Sports Park Saturday, May 10, 2014. Manti won 8-4.

Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

SPANISH FORK — Manti senior Lizzy Palmer never stands in the batter’s box alone.

“I like to say I have angels in the outfield,” she said after helping the top-ranked Templars to a 2A state softball championship with an 8-4 victory over last year’s champion, San Juan, Saturday at the Spanish Fork Softball Complex. “I not only play for myself, but I play for my teammates, my coaches, my community and my family.”

In fact, the entire team feels like the letters stitched across their uniforms represent more than just the girls on the roster or the teens at the high school.

“We didn’t do this for ourselves,” Palmer said. “We did it for everyone around us too.”

The Templars were disappointed not to even make last year’s championship game. They struggled with challenges on the field and with heartbreak in their lives away from softball. But through it all, they found that by working for each other, they were strong enough to accomplish something their entire community could be proud of.

“There were things that happened in their lives, and they just came together to make the best of any situation,” said Manti head coach Susan Hatch. “That feeling (of winning a title) is hard to describe. … It’s the feeling that you worked hard and you’re being rewarded.”

The Templars faced their toughest challenge in the championship game as San Juan scored more runs in one game than all their other opponents had in the other tournament games combined. They ended with a 61-7 advantage against other 2A teams.

“This is so awesome,” Hatch said. "The girls worked so hard. We’ve had some hardships the last couple of years, but the girls worked hard and played well.”

Palmer lost her brother, Jeremy, to a drug overdose last fall, but she wasn’t the only player to struggle with despair.

The team wears a patch dedicating the 2013 season to senior Kemri Stilson’s father, Kevin, who died last March. She couldn’t stop the tears after the championship celebration began near the pitcher’s circle.

“We struggled with our ups and downs, but we always played for those who love us,” Stilson said. “We represent everyone around us. … Last year was a huge disappointment, but this feels so right, so good.”

Palmer said she feels Jeremy’s love and support, even though she no longer sees her big brother’s smile in the stands.

“The last time we took state, my brother was here,” she said wiping away tears. “I dedicate some of my at bats to him. … I know Jeremy is with me all the time. When I can’t go anymore, he’s the one who picks me up and helps me go the extra mile.”

Palmer fielded the last grounder of Saturday’s championship game and made a perfect throw to senior Takisha McFarlane, who entered the game just for one batter because she broke her thumb last weekend in a non-region game against Taylorsville.

“I had a vision,” she said laughing. “I saw that play before it even happened.”

The routine play ended a spectacular season in which the team lost just a single game — against 5A’s Taylorsville.

Senior pitcher Kami Thomson threw another outstanding game against one of the state’s best in San Juan’s Tatiana Su’e Su’e. It was up to each team’s defense to stop the other team as each pitcher allowed 10 hits, and only three batters benefited from walks.

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