It was nice to finally be able to play because of the rain. It's fun to see the results these kids got. They deserve it. —Tooele head coach Marissa Lowry
GRANTSVILLE — Tooele outfielder Amber Lujan had a three-run home run in the fourth inning to help the Buffaloes move past Desert Hills 10-4 in the second round of the Class 4A state softball tournament on Monday.
"I just went up and did what I knew how to do," Lujan said. "I just know it's only going to get better from here. We've just got to keep going and play the part like we always do."
The junior went 3 for 4 with three RBIs and three runs scored at Tooele's home field at Deseret Peak Complex in Grantsville as the Buffaloes advanced to the quarterfinals of the state tournament for the third-straight year.
Desert Hills eked out a run against Tooele pitcher Attlyn Johnston in the first inning. Senior pitcher Brianna St. Clair singled from the leadoff spot, advanced to third on a pair of passed balls and scored on a wild pitch to make it 1-0.
Johnston only allowed one earned run, a leadoff home run to junior shortstop Addi Betts in the fourth inning. The Thunder managed to plate another pair of runs in the fifth, and both runners reached base after being hit by pitches.
Otherwise, the Tooele freshman pitched a gem, allowing four hits and striking out 15 batters. No Desert Hills player reached base more than once.
"She has grown so much from the very beginning until now," Tooele head coach Marissa Lowry said of Johnston. "But she wouldn't be here without her teammates. They continue to push her. When she's not on, she leans on them, but they also lean on her. With what she can do in the circle, they can kind of relax in the field. It's fun to see those girls do that."
Offensively, the Buffaloes jumped on St. Clair early and often, racking up 14 hits.
Tooele shortstop Madi Baker hit a single through the middle while leading off, center fielder Bryerly Avina drew a walk, and left fielder Amber Lujan singled through the middle to load the bases with no outs in the first inning. That set the table for third baseman Payton Hammond's grand slam to make it 4-1.
Right fielder Makenna Baker had a two-out RBI single in the third inning to plate catcher Blake Hervat, and three runners scored in the fourth inning on Lujan's no-out homer to left field to make it 8-2. Third baseman Emma Jackson added another insurance run with her solo shot past the right-field fence an inning later.
"It was nice to finally be able to play because of the rain," Lowry said. "It's fun to see the results these kids got. They deserve it."
In the game that was postponed from Saturday due to the weather, Baker went 3 for 4 with a pair of runs scored for the Region 11 champions. Avina went 2 for 3 with a walk and two runs. Hammond had four RBIs from her first-inning grand slam.
St. Clair struck out four batters in the loss.
Tooele will next face the team that emerges from the pod hosted by Region 12 champion Bear River. The games are scheduled to take place Tuesday at 3:30 p.m. and Thursday at the Spanish Fork Softball Complex. Desert Hills will take on Orem in the one-loss bracket at 1:30 p.m Thursday.
"We have a solid lineup from night to night, so it's fun to see whoever can step in and hit," Lowry said. "We're going to continue to play great teams, and so you have to bring your A game every single game. I'm proud of the girls and everything they've done so far."
Tavin Stucki has covered prep sports in Utah for more than nine years.