SPANISH FORK – Tatiana Su’e Su’e bent over and tried to slow her breathing.
“To be honest, I was freaking out,” said the sophomore pitcher after she helped San Juan defeat Enterprise 6-5 for the 2A state softball championship Saturday afternoon. “I didn’t do a very good job of keeping my cool.”
With the game tied at 1-1 in the top of the fourth inning, Enterprise suddenly seemed to be unstoppable. The frame began with Kim Bishop’s single. Su’e Su’e struck out the next batter, but then center fielder Taylor Phelps smacked a double that scored Bishop. That was followed by two more singles and then a fielding error that allowed Robinson to get on base while Christensen and Reber scored.
There were other mental errors that wouldn't show up in the stats, and the combination was shaking the confidence of the Broncos’ young pitcher. That’s when assistant coach Mark Bowers decided to have a chat with the team in the circle.
While San Juan senior Brooke Lyman said Bowers told them to prepare for a second game, Su’e Su’e said he was brutally honest with her.
“He told me to calm down and stop my pouting,” she said. “You can’t win while you pout. It made me realize, I have to play for my team, win for my seniors because they’ve put so much work in for the past four years. I’ve got to put in all my work here in this one game.”
Lyman, whose grand slam in the bottom of the fifth tied the game at 5-5, said what Bowers told them relieved the pressure they felt to win that game, as they were playing in a double-elimination tournament and Enterprise was the team with one loss.
“I was so nervous, the errors,” Lyman said shaking her head. “Coach Bowers came out and said, ‘It looks like we’re going to go into another game girls, so get the momentum going for the next game.’ That clicked us; if we were going to play another game, we’d better get going.”
However, Su’e Su’e said there was no way she wanted to throw another game against the Wolves.
“No, it was not going two games,” she said emphatically.
After Bowers' team talk, the Broncos got the next batter out, and then held the Wolves the rest of the way. It gave San Juan's three seniors a moment they haven’t had since they were freshman.
“It’s the best feeling in the world,” Lyman said, her voice choking with emotion. “I can’t thank them enough for stepping up and helping us win.”
She said softball has taught her many lessons she’ll take with her to college next year.
“Hard work pays off,” she said wiping away tears. “Relationships are everything, loving each other, communication.”
Senior second baseman L’Sha Eldredge added that it's the memories that are most meaningful.
“I’ll always remember the girls, even more than the championships,” Eldredge said through tears. “I’ll remember the girls.”
While Lyman’s grand slam was critical to the victory, it was not unexpected. The blast was her 10th home run of the season as the Broncos shattered the state record for home runs hit by a team — in any classification — in a single season. That final bomb over the left-field fence brought the team total to 45 — the reverse of Lyman’s No. 54.
“I’m cool with that,” she said grinning, which is also not unusual for the spunky senior. “It was a great feeling, a good one to go out on.”
The biggest moment, however, came when senior center fielder Lexus Latham shook off a season of hitting frustrating and produced the game-winning single in the bottom of the seventh.
Her single to center field allowed Su’e Su’e, who stood on second, to score the game-winning run.
“It was amazing,” said Latham through tears. “It was amazing. That’s was the most relaxed at-bat I’ve had. I think that’s why I got it.”
Her hit ended a thrilling state championship game between two powerful pitchers, backed up by hard-hitting batters.
“Enterprise is a good team,” said San Juan head coach Craig Swenson, who celebrated his 220th win with Saturday’s title. “We knew they were going to give us a great game. We just kept battling back and finally strung a few hits together, got some base runners and capitalized on it.”
Despite ending the season on a loss, Enterprise head coach Duane Wallin also expressed pride in his club, especially for the way it battled two of the state’s best teams — Manti and San Juan — on Saturday.
“(Dakota Robinson) is one of the best pitchers in the state of Utah,” he said. “She works hard at it and she definitely keeps us in ballgames. I thought she battled well today, especially as a pitcher. You get all those home runs hit on you yesterday, it’s hard to come back. But she did today. It didn’t faze her and she came right out and faced all of their tough hitters again today.”
Enterprise earned the chance to try to win its first softball state title by defeating defending 2A champion Manti 10-2 in the 10 a.m. game. The same three teams battled last year on the final day of the tournament, and Wallin suspects that might be the case next year as San Juan loses only three players; Enterprise loses just one senior; and Manti has no starting seniors.
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