TAYLORSVILLE — Eliza Thornley felt the disappointment of giving up a home run, but knew she couldn’t let herself succumb to frustration or doubt.
The Viewmont pitcher had a loss she felt she needed to avenge.
So the junior tried to remain confident and trusted that her teammates could match the offensive firepower of the Taylorsville Warriors in what turned out to be the softball equivalent of a heavyweight prize fight, as both teams landed what seemed were knockout punches — only to have the other match the blows.
“It was way hard to keep getting the lead and giving it up, but I just stuck with it,” said Thornley after the Vikings essentially locked up the Region 2 title with a 14-11 win Thursday afternoon at Taylorsville. “They hit the ball 1 through 9. Last year I didn’t feel like I pitched very good here. I felt like I lost it for my team, so I really wanted to get it this year. It’s awesome.”
What’s most exciting for the No. 1-ranked Vikings is that this year they earned the region title outright.
“This was kind of our nemesis from last year,” said Viewmont head coach Brad Jones. “We came to play for region last year and fell short. So this year, this was our goal.”
It was an exciting game with seven combined home runs — five of which were hit by Viewmont. Junior shortstop Caitlyn Larsen hit two of those home runs, going 3 for 3 at the plate.
“Just winning (the region title), and having it be completely ours is the best feeling ever,” said Larsen, who committed to play softball for BYU this winter. “It’s great.”
She said they knew the game would come down to hitting — base hits and big blasts.
“We knew we had to be on top of our game, and that we needed to hit because they would hit right back,” said Larsen. “Nervous? Yes, I was. But I had faith in my team. I knew we’d pull it out because we don’t have a spot in our lineup that doesn’t have someone who can hit it hard.”
Both coach and players said it was difficult not to worry or get frustrated as the Warriors countered every run they scored. Viewmont finished with 14 hits, while Taylorsville earned 13 hits.
“I think they learned a very valuable lesson,” said Jones of the way his team battled Thursday. “Just don’t give up. If they don’t give up and continue to work, continue to focus, we’ll beat anybody.”
The game opened with Viewmont scoring two runs, including Larsen’s first home run, and then the Warriors scored two runs of their own. The Vikings opened the second run with five runs, including another home run by Larsen, and the Warriors changed pitchers.
“I’ve had another game with two home runs, but this was by far the most meaningful,” said Larsen, who also made a spectacular diving catch in the bottom of the third inning.
In addition to Larsen’s two home runs, Riley Tyteca, Amanda Varley and Kellie Williams all had home runs, while Varley also had two doubles. Williams had a double and Emily Street also hit a double for Viewmont.
Taylorsville got a home run from Karlee Jensen, and then senior first baseman Cami Mathews smashed a two-run home run in the bottom of the sixth to tie the game at 10-10.
Viewmont scored three runs in the top of the seventh, but Taylorsville could only manage one as the Vikings essentially locked up the region title with two games to play. Like his players, Jones was a little nervous every time the Warriors began scoring runs.
“I knew they would hit,” said Jones. “Taylorsville is a good hitting team. Our little pitcher, Eliza Thornley, has thrown every inning of every game this year. These guys have seen her four times already. We were kind of worried about that, but she stood in there and did her thing.”
After Matthews' home run, Jones called a timeout to remind Thornley just what she was capable of with a little confidence.
“She gets a little upset at herself,” he said. “I just got her to get her head back in the game so she’ll hit her spots. She has phenomenal control. We pretty much know where the ball is going if they hit it.”
The Vikings have lost only two games this season — against Copper Hills and Alta — and boast a 17-2 record heading into a game against a tough Hunter squad next Tuesday.
Jones said the win will help his team play with confidence as it enters the final week of region play and prepares for the playoffs.
“It means a lot to these kids,” he said. “This will be a huge confidence boost to us. Hopefully we won’t look back.”
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