MAPLETON — When the Westlake Thunder travelled down South to take on the Maple Mountain softball team, it was a battle between two first-year programs.
But these softball programs aren't just any old softball squads, they come from great feeder systems, and both split off from schools with rich softball traditions. Both teams are still young as most first-year squads are, but both have plenty of ambition to make a great year for their first-year teams.
In this one, it was the Thunder that wore down the Eagles, as the freshman-laden Maple Mountain team fell apart defensively in the fourth inning, giving the Thunder all the opportunity it needed to take advantage of the lapses and walk away with a 9-7 victory.
Maple Mountain had drawn first blood in the bottom of the first on a single by Tori Nielsen, a double by Mariah Peterson and a two-RBI triple by Hailee Mecham, bringing three runs across the plate. But the Thunder didn't get discouraged and got two of those back in the third on a single, an RBI triple to Jennifer Cottle and a pair of Maple Mountain errors.
Just a a sophomore, Cottle was batting an astounding .892 coming into play this week.
"I love our bats," said Lehi coach Kim Jex. "My girls are all hitters, and Cottle is simply amazing. She's typically in the past been a catcher, but we moved her to third this season. I love her bat, her confidence and her quickness and energy level."
Because of her team's youth, Jex notes that they do need to work on communication and believing in their own potential, but she hopes it comes with the experience of the season progressing.
The fourth inning saw six Westlake singles and four Maple Mountain errors. The Thunder took advantage of each and every error and each hit, only leaving a pair stranded when bringing home six.
The Thunder have three pitchers that rotate in and out of the lineup, two sophomores and a freshman. They field two seniors, but the rest of the players are underclassmen, and Jex says Westlake's feeder program is still top-notch. Of course, while the Thunder team is mostly made up of sophomores, the Eagles are even younger still as six of their starters are freshmen, including their two pitchers.
Maple Mountain is looking forward to beginning play in a tough Region 8, but the Thunder have something more specific in mind.
"Our big goal this year is to beat Lehi," said Jex about the school the Thunder broke off from.