High school softball: Sydney White leads Lehi to 5A first-round victory over Fremont
PLAIN CITY — This promising showdown probably should've come much later in this year's 5A softball playoffs.
But, due to the magic of tiebreakers and coin flips, two of the top three 5A teams in Utah found themselves squaring off in Tuesday's opening round of the state tournament.
And when the dust settled on this dandy, back-and-forth duel, second-ranked Lehi got a gritty pitching performance from Sydney White, who also smacked a go-ahead, two-run homer in the sixth inning, as the Pioneers came away with a 9-5 victory over third-ranked Fremont.
White was staked to a 4-0 lead in the first inning, but the Silver Wolves scored three runs of their own in the bottom-half of the first to make it 4-3. Fremont then took a 5-4 lead in the third inning on a run-scoring triple by McKenzie Cottle and an RBI single by Shaylee Pierce.
"It's a game of momentum and it's hard as a pitcher, especially when you come out and score a lot of runs and you kinda feel like you've let your team down when you let 'em back in the game," White said. "But I know that if I just try and pitch out that my girls behind me have my back a hundred percent of the time."
However, with the way Fremont pitcher Kristina George — who came on with two out in the first inning and shut out Lehi on two hits over the next four frames — was throwing the ball, it looked like the Silver Wolves could be in control.
But in the sixth inning, the Pioneers' Madison Cook singled to left and, with two out, White lofted a two-run shot over the center-field fence to lift Lehi back on top, 6-5.
"It wouldn't have been anything without (Cook) on base," White said. "It would've still been a tie ballgame. Changing the momentum with one swing is real nice."
The Pioneers added three insurance runs in the seventh on singles by Tara Tahbo and Kacie Fruitenberger, a sacrifice fly by Rylin Roberts, and Cook's two-run blast over the fence in left-center field.
And White, who gave up seven hits over the first three innings, didn't allow a hit over the final four frames to send the Pioneers soaring into Thursday's second-round game against Region 2 champ Taylorsville.
"When they come and help me out with the bats, I've got to help them out on the mound, so I try my best," said White, who altered her pitching strategy after the third inning. "I talked to my catcher (Brylee Bringhurst) and we changed our game plan from going outside on the girls to jamming 'em on the hands, and it worked throughout the rest of the game. So it's all about just changing things up.
"If we get something going, you know, it's hard to stop us when we're rolling," she said of her team's late-game scoring surge. "It makes my life a lot easier on the mound in the last inning."
Tuesday's matchup marked a deceiving duel between two teams who, with more than 40 wins between them, were better than their state playoff seeding might indicate.
Lehi (21-6) wound up in a three-way tie for the Region 4 title, but lost the subsequent coin flip and ended up being the league's No. 3 seed, while Fremont (22-6) finished tied for first in Region 1, but lost the tiebreaker and took the league's No. 2 seed into the state tournament.
"It was a good game, a fun game," Lehi coach Whitney Thomas said. "We came up here knowing that we were in a good position as far as competition. We knew they were a good team, but we knew we were also. I thought it was going to be a good, close game, but our bats were hot today and we battled through.