BOUNTIFUL — Bountiful used timely hitting and solid pitching to knock off Highland 11-1 on a miserably cold Tuesday afternoon.
“We played really well, especially considering how cold it was,” Bountiful softball coach Butch Latey said. “We got off to a good start and kept up our energy.”
With temperatures more suited for football than softball and intermittent snow flurries, McKenna Alley threw five solid innings to lead Bountiful to the win. She struck out eight.
“I haven’t pitched in nine months, so I was definitely better than I thought I’d be. I’m still getting the hang of things, but we are getting better,” she said.
Alley was quick to praise her teammates.
“Our defense is killing it this year,” the senior captain said. “Every position is strong. I know (my teammates) will get to every ball. That takes the pressure off me.”
The Braves' offense heated up quickly, scoring three runs in the first and added runs in each inning.
“Landi (Hawker) set the table for us,” Latey said of his senior shortstop.
Hawker singled and walked three times on the day and scored four runs. She also stole three bases. Katie Tanner also caused havoc on the base paths, smacking two singles and scoring a run.
While Tanner and Hawker put pressure on by continually reaching base, it was the heart of the order that drove in all the runs for Bountiful. Brook Dickerson finished with a hit and three RBIs, while Morgan Ashley went 3-for-4 and drove in a run. MC Danner-Stone also singled and drove in a run.
“We are better than I thought we would be hitting," Latey said. "I thought that would be our weakness and it still might be."
The damage could have been worse, if not for the stellar play of senior outfielder Deja Gaston. Braves hitters lined two balls to right field that appeared to be base hits, but they were thrown out at first by Gaston.
“I’ve learned to look at batters, see how strong of a hitter they are, where they are likely to hit it and then I preplan the play in my head,” the Rams standout said.
She also contributed offensively, hitting a double off the wall in the fifth inning.
“We have two big hitters in Finau (Tonga) and Gaston,” Highland coach Gilbert Maestas said.
In addition to Gaston’s double off the wall, freshman Tonga also crushed a ball deep to left that would have left the yard in anything but subfreezing temperatures.Comment on this story
“I told our pitcher to throw (Tonga) a change-up," Dickerson said. “Then she crushed it. After I told (the pitcher), uh, never mind.”
While it was a setback for Highland, Maestas noted his girls “are a lot better this year.”
“We were really amateur in the past. We had no foundation,” Gaston said. “When Coach Maestas came on, he gave us confidence and pushed us. That has carried to the team this year.”
With the win, Bountiful improves to 4-0 (1-0 Region 5). They Braves face Jordan in a nonregion game Wednesday. Highland fell to 1-1 (0-1 Region 5) and has a rivalry game against East Thursday.
David Pearce is General Counsel with Beneficial Life Insurance Company.