After a long week, with four games in five days, Bountiful was ripe for a letdown when it played Highland Friday afternoon. But Bountiful’s senior leaders wouldn’t allow that to happen.
“It was a tough week. We came out real strong against Bear River (on Monday). We played well against Cyprus too. We had lots of good practice Wednesday. We tailed off a bit yesterday (against East), but finished strong today,” senior co-captain Payton Hart said following the Braves 20-2 win over Highland.
Bountiful head coach Butch Latey agreed. “We had a good mindset coming into today’s game. The girls wanted to jump on them,” he said.
The Braves did just that, scoring 11 runs in the first inning. Bountiful’s first 12 batters reached base safely before Highland was able to record an out.
Bountiful’s Sydney Austin set the tone with a sharp single to start the game. “Everybody is watching so I have to be the example and get on base,” Austin said. She enjoyed a particularly strong week, hitting the game-winning home run against Bear River Monday.
The Braves added three runs in the second, one in the third and five in the fourth before the game was called.
It was a total team effort. Seven Braves had hits, six with multiple hits. Sydney Austin, Landi Hawker and Belle Stoddard led the way for Bountiful with three hits each.
“We hit the heck out of the ball this week,” coach Latey said following the 17-hit performance. “My assistants worked their tails off throwing batting practice. Because of them, we are a better team,” he added.
Braves freshman Landi Hawker used her speed in beating out several bunts and slap hits. “Sometimes the coaches call (bunt), but they let me choose also. I read the defense and see where the third and first baseman are playing and decide what to do,” Hawker said.
For Highland, the game was a hiccup in what has been a season of progress and development. Rams head coach Michele Hawkins said “from day one to now, the amount of growth is tremendous. We are thinking the game now. We are having moments where the physical and the mental match up. It is fun to see.”
The Rams showed that growth in the bottom of the third inning. Down to their last at-bat, while being no-hit by Brave ace Belle Stoddard, Jessica Uzelak singled to left field. After a walk to Nohea Raphael, freshman center fielder Mason McMahon singled in the run.
“I had made some bad plays in the outfield and was upset. I brushed it off and took it pitch by pitch. (Stoddard) gave me a pitch to hit and I hit it really hard. It felt really good,” McMahon said.
Mary Sayers then followed with an RBI single of her own to extend the game into the fourth inning.
Bountiful pitcher Stoddard earned her 19th win of the season. She recorded a season high 10 strike-outs despite pitching only four innings.
Highland (1-15) finishes its season next week against East and Clearfield. “Our record doesn’t show it, but we have come a long way. The future is bright at Highland,” Sayers said following the game.
With the win, the Braves improved to 19-1 (13-0 Region 6). They face Clearfield next Tuesday in a game between the top two Region 6 teams.
David Pearce is general counsel with Beneficial Life Insurance Co.
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