I know for a fact we can take state this year. —Manti third baseman Amanda Naylor
SPANISH FORK — Some of those representing Manti on the softball field this season had very little to do with last year’s 2A state title.
That doesn't matter to the girls wearing red and black this season, as all of them feel the championship is theirs to defend.
“It’s a different season and a different team, but I know we can do it,” said third baseman Amanda Naylor, who had a double and a spectacular catch in fourth-ranked Manti’s 15-3 upset of top-ranked Enterprise Thursday in the 2A quarterfinals. “I know for a fact we can take state this year.”
Naylor expressed that confidence despite feeling a little nervous about the second-seeded Templars draw in the brackets which featured three of the state’s top five teams.
“I was a little bit scared seeing there were some of the best teams in 2A that we had to fight through, and that we had a really hard bracket,” Naylor said. “But I knew, and I trusted my team, that we could do it.”
Pitcher Brooklyn Hatch, who earned the win Thursday, said she wasn’t nervous because she knew facing those teams was inevitable if they hope to repeat.
“I figured we’re going to have to get through these tough teams eventually, so why not play them first?” Hatch said. “It’s always fun, and you always have to beat the best teams.”
Coach Susan Hatch said the Templars have struggled with consistency, in part because of the players they lost last season.
“They feel like they still have something to prove,” she said. “That they’re just as competitive as the team last year. The problem we’ve had all year is just consistency and just coming together since we lost so many seniors last year. We had some of the (same) starters still out there, but just bringing those new kids in, I was hoping that by the time we got done with non-region and region, that we’d start jelling, and we’ve done that.”
The Templars jumped out to 4-0 start thanks, in large part, to right fielder Reggie Johnson’s three-run home run.
It was an interesting game with both teams scoring only on two-out rallies for the first four innings.
In the fifth inning, when the Templars put the game away thanks to the 10-run rule, the team didn’t wait to get a couple outs before scoring. The inning started with a walk by Jayda Shaw, featured a double by Mikaela Cox and Naylor and ended with a two-run home run by Shaw.
Enterprise needed five runs in the bottom of the fifth in order to continue playing, and for a few batters, it looked like they might get them.
Manti coach Hatch decided to change pitchers after her daughter, Brooklyn, walked Dani Hess with one out.
“It was super important (not to let the Wolves back in the game),” Brooklyn Hatch said. “I was a little upset that I couldn’t finish, but I knew Darci (Barker) is really good at closing.”
Barker walked the batter who was in progress when she took over, but then forced a pop-up to the catcher and then struck out the game’s final batter.
Brooklyn Hatch and Naylor said the team has a different level of intensity when the playoffs roll around each year.
“I think it’s just the feeling of it,” Brooklyn said smiling. “The energy is crazy. I don’t know, it’s just really fun.”
And enjoying the game is what her mom sees as part of their success.
“They trust each other and believe in each other,” coach Hatch said. “And they have fun.”
The Templars will play San Juan in the championship bracket at 10 a.m. The winner will play in a 2 p.m. semifinal for the opportunity to play for the championship.
The Broncos defeated American Leadership Academy 6-1 behind the pitching of Tatiana Su’e Su’e. She also hit a home run, while teammate Jade Palmer had a double in the win.
South Summit and Grand will play in the other 10 a.m. championship bracket game. The third-ranked Wildcats defeated South Sevier 21-10 as both teams put on prolific offensive displays. Elise Bush hit three home runs and Desmyn Woolstenhulme hit two home runs in the victory. Bush’s hits accounted for seven of the team’s runs.
Hannah Peterson earned the win and had a double as she went 4-for-4 against the Rams.
Grand defeated Gunnison 7-0 in Thursday’s other winner’s bracket contest. Grand’s Rhi Bohannon earned the win while Tyra Robertson had a three-run home run in the victory.
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