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High school softball: Weber begins title defense as it defeats Alta, 5-3

Published: Thursday, May 16 2013 11:40 p.m. MDT

Weber's Haleigh Mortensen is congratulated after scoring in the Warriors' 5-3 victory over Alta on Thursday afternoon.     (Laura Seitz, Deseret News) Weber's Haleigh Mortensen is congratulated after scoring in the Warriors' 5-3 victory over Alta on Thursday afternoon. (Laura Seitz, Deseret News)

SANDY — The defending 5A state champions appear to have found some magic in the postseason that eluded them during the regular season.

"It's been a rollercoaster ride," said Weber head coach Melinda Wade after the fourth-seeded Warriors defeated Region 3's top seed, Alta 5-3 Thursday. "We got off to a rocky start with injuries … and then it sort of spiraled from there."

One of those injuries was to senior Erin Reichle, who senior pitcher McKenna Bull called the team's "rock."

"When Erin goes down, you don't just lose a great athlete, you lose a great team leader," she said of the senior who hurt her knee playing basketball, which is the sport she'll play at Dixie State University. "Confidence-wise that was tough."

Just three weeks into the season, the Warriors were 1-4, and coaches were trying not to let the losses destroy the team's confidence.

5A softball game. Alta vs. Weber at Alta High School in Sandy on May 16, 2013. (Laura Seitz, Deseret News) 5A softball game. Alta vs. Weber at Alta High School in Sandy on May 16, 2013. (Laura Seitz, Deseret News)

"The main thing was not to let the losses get into our heads," she said. Once a team loses faith in its ability to win, she said, "it's a terrible path."

The Warriors, however, appeared to have rallied at just the right time. They played one of their best games of the season against the young but talented Hawks. Bull, last year's MVP, led the way with 14 strikeouts and a home run in the top of the seventh inning that gave her team just a little bit of breathing room in a tight ball game.

"I think the pressure (of the playoffs) started to pull us together as a team," she said. "We're coming together when it matters most. (The playoffs) really helped us bond."

Unlike some teams that might struggle with do-or-die pressure, she said this team relishes it.

"It doesn't phase us," she said. "It builds our character, it makes us stronger."

Alta's Brooke Vander Heide pitches in the 5A softball game against Weber at Alta High School in Sandy on May 16, 2013. (Laura Seitz, Deseret News) Alta's Brooke Vander Heide pitches in the 5A softball game against Weber at Alta High School in Sandy on May 16, 2013. (Laura Seitz, Deseret News)

She said it was "really nice" to "help my teammates" with the home run.

The Warriors scored their first run in the first inning when Johnni Arbon scored on a throwing error. They scored again in the second inning when Haleigh Mortensen, who got on base with a double, scored on Kennede Clarke's single.

In the third inning both teams scored. The Warriors' Hali Bennion stole home on a passed ball, while Alta's pitcher Hannah Vander Heide scored on a throwing error.

The Hawks built up some momentum in their sixth-inning rally, during which they scored two more runs.

Heading into the top of the seventh inning, all of the pressure was on Weber, as it nursed a 4-3 lead.

It was Bull who scored the final run for Weber when, with a full count, she smashed a home run over the centerfield fence.

"That was really nice to give my team that extra safety," she said.

She said it motivated her to do what she could to lead the defense in the bottom of the seventh.

"I knew they were going to come at us even harder," she said.

The Hawks looked poised to pick up where they left off in the sixth inning when Abron made a diving stop and throw to first that robbed Alta's Sarah Rivera of a beautiful hit and gave the Warriors their first out of the inning.

"It was a little scary," said Wade of Alta's sixth-inning rally. "They had a ton of momentum."

And then came Abron's defensive play.

"We call that a mo-killer," she said smiling. "That was a huge play."

Bull struck out the final two batters giving the Warriors their second win of the postseason. They will take on Bingham at 6:45 p.m. Tuesday at the Valley Softball complex.

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