3A softball: Top-ranked Utes rely on chemistry, confidence to advance in 3A softball tournament
SPANISH FORK — The feeling on the Uintah softball team is so different that just taking about it makes Kacee Cundall emotional.
“We’re not individual classes, we’re one team,” the senior said after the top-ranked Utes defeated second-ranked Canyon View 7-1 in the second round of the 3A state softball tournament at the Spanish Fork Softball Complex. “Actually, we’re more like a family than a team.”
If a player makes a mistake or happens to struggle, there is no criticism, no blaming.
“There is just always someone there to pick you up,” she said, apologizing for getting emotional. “It’s so different. It’s just a positive atmosphere.” The Utes' victory this weekend comes in the same round they lost to eventual state champ Stansbury last year. They were led by freshman pitcher Summer Sternsgard, who not only held Canyon View to two hits but also hit two home runs in the win.
“It was awesome,” she said. “When I’m hitting better, I always play better.”
And, according to head coach Jamey Smuin, that’s pretty much every game she plays.
“She just one of those kids, nobody will ever outwork her,” Smuin said.
The Utes' offense was dominating as they started the game with three runs. Lead-off batter Lauren Smuin got on base thanks to a walk, and then Stensgard moved her and advanced to first on a Canyon View error. Jaden Lance’s single scored Lauren Smuin and then Stensgard scored on a passed ball. Lance stole second and scored on a passed ball.
Coach Smuin said they watched Canyon View’s first-round game and knew the Utes needed to put the ball in play to win.
“All week long it’s been a lot of pitching machine on high so we could be ready,” he said smiling.
The team, which earned the region title without a loss, is feeling confident as it heads into Friday’s quarterfinal round of games where it will face Juab at 11 a.m. If the Utes win that, they play the winner of the Grantsville vs. Stansbury game, and if they lose, they head to the one-loss bracket.
The team’s chemistry and confidence come from playing together in both the high school season and throughout the summer.
“They’ve been playing together for eight years,” said Smuin, who has two daughters on the team. “They’ve got that mentality and confidence of staying positive.” The players said the coaching staff’s positive approach helps them stay positive with each other — regardless of what’s happening in a game.
“We have amazing coaches,” said Cundall.
Earning this victory is both a milestone and a confidence boost.
“It’s an indescribable feeling,” Cundall said. “We’re so close. It’s one more step toward our ultimate goal.”
In the other winner’s bracket games, Stansbury defeated Cedar City 5-0: Kimbri Herring struck out 11 and allowed just three hits in the shutout as the Stallions advanced in the winner's bracket of the 3A state tournament. Janessa Bassett hit a home run in the victory.
Grantsville defeated Payson 6-3: Whitnee Fields earned the victory for the Cowboys in the second round of the 3A state tournament.
Juab defeated Tooele 6-3: The Wasps upset the top-seeded, third-ranked Buffalo, thanks to a 10-hit outing and no errors in the field. Pitcher McCall Sperry earned the victory.