TAYLORSVILLE — Sydney White was frustrated after hitting a batter to load the bases in the bottom of the sixth inning.
Luckily it’s not the first time the Lehi sophomore pitcher has had to wade through frustration to lead her team to success on the softball field.
“She’s always confident,” said Lehi coach Whitney Thomas after the second-ranked Pioneers upset the top-ranked Layton Lancers 6-1 to earn a spot in Thursday’s 5A state softball championship at Valley Complex. “She’s always composed. She is a natural leader, and she works out of jams. That’s the thing that gets her through. She’s confident and you can see that in her. Nothing really rattles her.”
Not even what appears to be a 7-foot snake. OK, it turned out that what her teammate thought was a massive reptile was actually a giant stick, but she was willing to try and pick it up before its species had been definitively determined.
“We were all surrounding it, and then we realized it was just a giant stick,” White said of the team’s good-luck charm. “It was pretty cool so we decided to keep it.”
Now referred to as the “stauff” (staff with an English accent), it goes everywhere with the team and is adorned with a ribbon that matches the Pioneers’ uniforms.
“We had to put a little purple on it,” White said. “We had to make it ours.”
The players believe it brings them luck, and a little luck never hurt anyone, especially anyone who had to navigate the bracket the Pioneers faced because of a loss in their last region game of the season (to Riverton) that created a three-way tie for the region title. The Pioneers lost the coin toss, which made them the No. 3 seed.
“It was really frustrating because we’ve worked so hard all season,” White said. “People doubted us coming in as a three seed, but you’ve got to beat everybody anyway, so might as well get the good ones done first.”
Lehi has beaten four region champs to earn its place in Thursday’s state title game as Fremont, the first team they beat, and Layton, the team they beat Wednesday, were co-Region 1 champions.
“Yeah, we could say we got unlucky, but we were confident from the start,” said Thomas. “We were initially disappointed, but it didn’t take us long. We got together and said, ‘It’s a bummer. ... Now we take care of business. Now we know where we’re going.’”
White said the team’s philosophy to just work through challenges, even when they seem unfair or ill-timed, helped her Wednesday when she hit Layton batter Kimberly Taylor with two runners on base, no outs and a 3-0 lead.
“That just puts me in a harder situation,” she said. “But having my girls pick me up from a situation like that, I knew I could come back and pitch out of it.”
That’s exactly what she did with a pop up and then two strikeouts. The Pioneers followed that inning with a three-run at-bat that included a double by Taylor Tahbo that drove in two of the team’s final runs.
Lehi was flawless in the field and Stefani Simmerman and Kacie Fruitenburger each hit home runs in the victory.
The Pioneers will take on the winner of the 2:30 p.m. game between Taylorsville and Layton. Thomas said the team will arrive early to watch some of the play-in game.
Despite the fact that either team would have to beat Lehi twice to earn the title, the Pioneers will take nothing for granted Thursday night.
“We’ve had a motto all year — if you want it, take it,” Thomas said. “So if there is one thing we will not be (Thursday), it’s complacent.”
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