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David Pearce
AnnMarie Allred prepares to hit against Kearns.

Bountiful High’s prom isn’t until today, but the Braves were anxious to start the celebration early. The Braves knocked off Kearns 11-2 Friday afternoon, behind timely hitting, great defense and aggressive base running.

“You really aren’t sure what you are going to get from the girls the week of prom,” Bountiful head coach Butch Latey said following the win. “We played a lot better (Friday). We were much more intense. Syd (Austin) fired the girls up.”

Austin, Bountiful’s captain, said she “told (the girls) to start with intensity. We have to play every game like it’s against the best team in the state.”

Bountiful’s lead-off hitter, Landi Hawker, was the spark plug for Bountiful. She had four hits, including a triple, and drove in two runners. But it was more than her bat. Her speed and aggressiveness put pressure on the Kearns defense all game. Hawker stole four bases and scored three runs.

“She couldn’t do anything more than she did,” Latey said of his sophomore standout. “Her (softball) knowledge and savvy is incredible. In 30 years of coaching, I’ve had very few like her. She just knows what to do and takes everything the defense gives her. She is so much fun to coach. It’s amazing.”

Hawker wasn’t the only standout in the game. In the sixth inning, trailing 11-1, Kearns’ Briauna Carter hit a massive, opposite field home run. Batting right-handed, Carter drove a pitch over the 30-foot-high right-field fence. The ball was still rising as it cleared the wall. The ball landed in the adjacent soccer field, momentarily stopping the boys’ game against Woods Cross.

“Since 2001, I’ve only seen three people hit a home run over that fence, and none that impressive,” Kearns head coach Ken Isakson said.

Hawker agreed. “Oh my gosh, that was a great hit. She killed that ball.”

It was Carter’s sixth home run of the week and tenth of the year.

Isakson said Carter, who will be playing for Western Nevada College next year, “has been great all year. She is our leader.” The Cougars tried to rally behind Carter’s home run. Makeili Sasaki followed Carter and drove a ball deep into the left-center gap, but Bountiful center fielder AnnMarie Allred raced over to make the running catch. After a double by Kearns’ Druellie Kierstead and a walk, Hannia Banuelos hit a wicked ground ball up the middle. Bountiful second baseman Kassidy Larsen ranged to her right, snagged the ball and fired a bullet off her back foot just in time to force out Banuelos and end the rally.

“Despite the loss today, we are headed in the right direction and building something special,” Isakson said. “We are young team. We start four freshmen. I’m excited for the next few years.”

One of the reasons for Isakson’s optimism is center fielder Rosetta Kasala. In the fifth inning, Bountiful’s Maddie Nelson drove a ball to deep center that looked to be leaving the park. Kasala sprinted back, made the catch and robbed Nelson of extra bases. “When she hit it, I was just thinking run fast — run like Forest,’ ” Kasala said.

In addition to her leadership, Bountiful’s Austin contributed with a hot bat. In the first inning, she lashed a triple to the fence in right center. The hit scored two runs.

“We just had runners on. I wanted to hit to the right side. (Kearns’ pitcher) gave me my favorite pitch and I drilled it — then I just kept running,” Austin said. The hit, which staked the Braves to a 4-0 lead, was all they would need.

Bountiful (6-2, Region 6) plays at Cyprus next Tuesday, while Kearns (3-5, Region 6), visits Judge Memorial.

David Pearce is general counsel with Beneficial Life Insurance Co.