WASHINGTON TERRACE — Bonneville pitcher Nicole Gross ripped a hit to right field that on most days, against most teams, would have been an RBI single.
But against Spanish Fork, that hit became a fielder’s choice, as right fielder McKenzie Packard made a perfect throw home so sophomore catcher Whitney Perkins could tag Maddi Keesler out at the plate.
“I like my defense,” said Spanish Fork head coach Don Andrews after the top-ranked 3A team defeated the Lakers 14-6 on a chilly Wednesday afternoon in May. “We’ll make a few errors, but we make a lot of errors because we can get to the ball.” In other words, the errors will come from too much effort.
“We’ll throw a few over the moon,” Andrews said with a smile. “But I would say defense is probably our strength.”
And while the Dons' defense served them well in Wednesday’s nonregion win against one of 4A’s top teams, it was the Dons' offense that looked ready perform in the postseason.
The Dons had five doubles and three home runs — two of which were grand slams.
The Lakers scored two runs in the first inning, and it was the Dons' defense that got them out of a bases-loaded situation in that frame. Neither team scored until the fourth inning, with the Dons earning three runs when Packard hit what looked like a triple, but she was tagged out at third base for the inning’s second out.
The Lakers responded with another run to tie the game at 3-3 as Sheyenne Keesler scored in the bottom of the fourth.
In the fifth inning the Dons started with a single by Mariah Peterson, followed by a bunt by Dani Perkins and a walk from Brooke Davis. The bases were loaded when Cheyenne Pratt came to bat and hit a grand slam — into the wind — over the left-field fence.
“I just swung hard,” she said. “I felt it got us going.”
With what McKinley Brinkerhoff, who's also known as "Lizard," calls “insurance runs,” the team played more aggressively on defense and on offense.
“We’ve been kind of slow-starting this year,” said Andrews. “Today I thought we were getting decent swings. When you get good swings, something is bound to happen. That’s all we can ask of them.”
Both coach and players said part of the reason for the slow starts is adjusting to the speed and style of each pitcher.
“Every game it does take us awhile, and we have to warm up to each and every pitcher because they’re all different,” said Packard. “The first couple of errors (made by Spanish Fork) made me a little nervous, but I knew we would pull through. We always do.”
Packard said she didn’t hesitate to throw that ball home because that’s just the way the Dons play defense.
“We just needed to get the runners out,” she said. “I’ve done it once or twice. There was no hesitation because when you’re more aggressive there is a better chance to get them out.”
Pitcher Kelsey Christensen earned the win for the Dons, although Spanish Fork changed pitchers for the last two batters when the Lakers started hitting the ball and scoring runs. Mykel Davis knocked in two runs with a single up the middle and then Gross walked, prompting the change.
The final out came when Madeline Jensen was tagged out stealing second.
“Sometimes we’re really good,” said Andrews. “And sometimes we’re bad. The one constant has been our defense. We’ve had good defense the whole season. It’s just that sometimes we forget what a bat is for.”
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