SALEM — Before Tuesday's huge Region 8 softball game between Provo and Salem Hills, Provo coach Jose Ventura predicted that the contest would be a pitchers' duel.
"We have five players in our lineup that could change the game with one swing," he said. "Salem Hills could win a game 1-0 because of (pitcher Kirtlyn) Bohling."
Prophetic words indeed.
Tuesday's matchup between region once-beatens had all the intensity of the forecasted thunderstorms, and at the end of it all, Bohling and the Skyhawks prevailed 1-0.
After the first batter struck out, Provo, which won the first meeting between these two teams, looked like it was going to get started scoring when pitcher Taylor Allman reached first on a single over Abbie Tuttle at shortstop.
In the Skyhawk half of the first, Kenzie Martin led off with a walk. After a strikeout for Allman, Allman was then able to get Ashley Whiting out at first, but not before Martin made it to second, bringing up the Skyhawk pitcher.
Bohling (2 for 3) drove an Allman fastball to the fence for an RBI single, giving Salem Hills a 1-0 lead — a lead it never relinquished.
In the top of the second, it was strikeout, strikeout, then a base hit for Provo's McKienzie Corless. A third strikeout ended the inning for the Bulldogs, however.
Provo's third inning started off with a pair of strikeouts. Provo's Megan Ventura reached first on a hard, deep grounder that popped out of Tuttle's glove. Taylor Allman followed that with another single to put runners on first and second. The Bulldogs looked to be challenging, but another strikeout from Bohling ended the threat.
After two pop ups, one to Kacie Allman and the other to Ventura, Tuttle hit safely for the Skyhawks. The inning ended on another Taylor Allman strikeout.
The fourth inning brought some concerns for the Skyhawks. Though the first Provo batter struck out, Emily Allman was able to draw a base on balls.
A hard grounder by Corless to Skyhawk third baseman Kenna Davis was bobbled, but Davis kept her head, picked it up and threw to Cowden at second to get Emily Allman out.
Abigail Maio singled to put runners at first and second. Once again, Bohling sat down the next batter with a strikeout to close out the inning.
Bohling recounted: "My arm didn't feel very strong at the first, so I relied on my movement, then it finally felt better around the sixth inning."
Bohling led off the Skyhawk half of the inning with a single, but Taylor Allman was able to get Alex Oveson to pop out. After another strikeout, Allman fielded Cowden's grounder and threw to sister Emily for the third out.
It was three up, three down for both teams in the fifth and the sixth, with a pop up to Cowden and a long fly ball to center fielder Tiffany Madson, along with another three strikeouts and a ground out to Bohling.
For the Provo defense, it was two Ks, three pop ups, one each to Ventura, Kacie Allman, and Eleanor Talia, and a grounder to Emily Allman.
In the top of the seventh, with SHHS simply needing to close out, a grounder by Corless to Cowden, who threw to Martin, marked the first out.
Of that play, Cowden said, "I didn't think at all. I just told myself, 'I've got this.'"
An error in communication between Davis and Tuttle led to Maio reaching first, but Davis quickly corrected that by fielding a bunt from Lindsay Rowley and throwing her out at first.
Cowden continued: "I knew Kenna (Davis) would get the bunt, and I knew I was there."
Bohling then got the next batter to strike out, ending the game.
For her part, Salem Hills' pitcher knew the game was won "when we got the last out in the seventh — not until then."
Despite the outcome, Ventura said, "Our win (against Salem Hills) last time helped us believe that we can come from behind and win close games. We are both good teams and this game will help both teams going into the state tournament."
"I'm grateful to play Provo at the end of the year to keep us sharp for some upcoming tough competition," said Salem Hills coach Renae Kinghorn.
Troy Bohling is the coordinator of school services for Nebo School District. He was previously an assistant principal at Salem Hills High School from 2008-12. His daughter Kirtlyn plays for Salem Hills. He can be contacted at [email protected].