We worked hard at practice, and this is what came from it. We can play with anyone we want. Everyone has a good positive attitude. —Ridgeline pitcher Kamryn Grover
SPANISH FORK — It was a game in Garland, Utah, that changed turned the Ridgeline softball team’s hope into confidence.
“They think they can win,” said head coach Mike Anderson of the Riverhawks after they upset the No. 1 ranked Juab Wasps 3-1 in the second round of the 3A state tournament. “We play in a region with Bear River. And we went to Bear River’s house and we beat them. At that point, that’s where things changed for us. We realized, ‘Hey, you’re playing with one of the top teams in the state. If you beat them, on a given day you can beat anybody.’”
And that’s exactly what the Riverhawks did Thursday afternoon at the Spanish Fork softball complex.
Anderson said they had no illusions about how tough the Wasps are – especially all-state pitcher Taylei Williams.
“We knew who we were facing, and we have great respect for the Williams girl,” Anderson said. “She’s probably one of the top two or three pitchers in the state. And we understand what she can do with a bat.”
The Riverhawks strategy was to beat them with the short game.
“We’ve kind of been working all week on the Muhammad Ali ‘rope-a-dope’. That’s been our whole thing, we’re going to come out and play small ball.” That also meant walking Williams in her first at-bat.
“We wanted to have good sportsmanship, so we didn’t walk her on the second (pitch), but she can hit the ball,” he said. “I was really impressed with our kids.”
The Riverhawks discipline to stick to the plan paid off as they jumped out to a 2-0 lead. They earned another run in the fourth inning, which the Wasps answered. The Riverhawks earned seven hits while holding Juab to five hits.
Neither team had fielding errors, but Juab left 10 runners on base, while Ridgeline only left three on the bases.
Mailee Jensen earned the win with four strikeouts, while Williams earned eight strikeouts.
Fourth-ranked Ridgeline will play Tooele, a second seed from Region 10. The unranked Buffaloes pulled off their own upset, beating second-ranked Cedar High 9-1.
Senior captain Trista Fackrell said the tone for Thursday’s game was set in the team’s pregame rituals.
“We have more energy,” she said of what’s different from last season’s playoffs. “We’re like singing and dancing before the game, and we’re all excited. And we just know we’re going to have a good game.” The Buffaloes ended Cedar’s postseason last year, as well. But that didn’t matter as pitcher Kamryn Grover said the team prepared by focusing on the future.
“We worked hard at practice, and this is what came from it,” she said. “We can play with anyone we want. Everyone has a good positive attitude.”
In the other championship bracket games, defending 3A champion Bear River defeated North Sanpete 10-0, while Grantsville defeated Desert Hills 5-0. The third-ranked Bears and Cowboys will play at 10 a.m. on the field adjacent to Tooele and Ridgeline. The winners of those games will play at 2 p.m. for a berth in the state championship game on Saturday at noon.