TOOELE — With the bases loaded, one out and her team clinging to a narrow, one-run lead in the top of the sixth inning, Juab head softball coach Alley Gee called a quick timeout in an attempt to calm her team’s nerves.
“I just told ‘em, ‘let’s go get on a ride at Disneyland and forget all of this stress and just have fun,’ ” Gee said to her team on the mound.
After giving her team a much-needed pep talk and regrouping, the Wasps retook the field with their backs against the wall and in dire need of a big-time stop.
However, a big-time stop is exactly what Juab senior center fielder Ally Nelson came up with.
On the very next pitch, Nelson chased down what seemed to be a game-tying sacrifice fly, made the catch and fired it home, gunning out Snow Canyon’s lead runner at the plate to get the Wasps out of the jam unscathed.
“It was great,” a smiling Gee said of Nelson’s spectacular play to end the sixth. “I couldn’t have asked for anything better than that!”
Juab (15-7, 9-3) went on to plate one more run in the home half of the sixth to preserve the 2-1 first-round victory over Snow Canyon (15-7, 9-3).
The Wasps were able to get things rolling in the bottom of the fourth inning off junior ace pitcher McCall Sperry’s RBI-base knock to take an early lead.
Sperry (8-3) was terrific on both sides of the ball as she gave up just four hits and one run to lead the home team in the complete-game win in the circle. She also finished 2 for 3 at the plate with two singles and one RBI.
“Her performance was great today,” Gee said of her star pitcher. “She has been hurting with an injury this whole season, and we’ve been really worried about her lately. But today, she just muscled through it and I am really proud of her.”
Juab’s stingy defense and McCall’s dominant pitching performance kept the Warriors’ bats at bay until the Red and Gold could extend their lead in the bottom of the sixth.
After sophomore third baseman Josie Richards singled to start off the sixth, freshman first baseman Taylei Williams laid down a sacrifice bunt to advance the runner — which Nelson followed up with a walk — to put some ducks on the pond for the Wasps.
Junior Savanna Grennhalgh then stepped to the plate and calmly roped a single to left field to bring home Richards and give Juab a 2-0 cushion just three short outs away from advancing to the 3A quarterfinals.
Snow Canyon came up in the top of the seventh and rallied to cut its deficit in half, but eventually fell short as the Wasps hung on for the 2-1 victory.
Overall, Gee was extremely happy with how her squad showed up to earn its first first-round victory since 2009.
“We played really tough today,” Gee said of her team’s efforts. “They were loose, they decided mentally to be here today and I am just really proud of what they were able to accomplish.”
With the win, Juab moves on to the 3A quarterfinals, which is set to get underway Thursday at Spanish Fork High School.
Ryan Love is a full-time student at the University of Utah studying communications and has been a part-time sportswriter and scoreboarder for the Deseret News since October 2012.
Follow him on Twitter @RLove7724