They beat us 5-4 early in the season, and we were missing three or four of our starters. That’s not an excuse ... but yeah, we wanted some payback. —Taylorsville coach Jace Hymas
TAYLORSVILLE — The only indication that Reagan Walk relished the opportunity to throw against a rival who had beaten her in the preseason was the intensity with which she worked in the circle.
“I was confident that we would have the bats there,” said the junior pitcher who led fourth-ranked Taylorsville in a 12-0 victory against Granger in the first round of the 6A softball playoffs Tuesday afternoon. “We’ve been hitting lately off of any pitcher we face, and I’ve been pitching pretty good lately, too. So I knew I would hold them down.”
Walk gave up just one hit in the victory that put an exclamation mark on the turnaround the Warriors have enjoyed this season.
“We started the season 1-7,” said Jace Hymas, who retired from more than 20 years as an umpire to take over the storied program that’s struggled a couple of years. “We were 10-1 (coming into the playoffs).”
Hymas said the team looked forward to avenging this season’s earlier loss to Granger.
“They beat us 5-4 early in the season, and we were missing three or four of our starters,” he said. “That’s not an excuse but yeah, we wanted some payback. We were pretty glad to see we got Granger. They were rather happy when they beat us at our place, as they should be. They played a good game, and I’m not taking anything from them.”
Hymas, who also coached girls basketball at Taylorsville for more than 20 years before retiring, said the school’s athletic director asked him to apply when longtime coach Rich Kaelin retired last year.
“I thought, ‘Hey, that’d be fun,’” he said laughing. “I missed the girls.”
He said it isn’t just one thing that accounts for the team’s dramatic turnaround.
“A little of column A and column B,” he said. “First, we got everybody back and healthy. We had a lot of drama. This is, without a doubt, the most stressful coaching experience of my life. But I got their attention. They believe. They believe in us now; they believe in the coaches and they play accordingly.”
Hymas said Walk has gotten stronger as the season has progressed.
“She is just so, so improved,” he said. “She’s not the fastest pitcher in the league, but she’s got good speed. She has excellent movement, and she hits her spots. She is a tough, tough pitcher.”
Walk showed that toughness in Tuesday’s win as she never let up against the Lancers, even when her own team’s offense took any pressure off her shoulders.
Savanna Montoya and Madeson Ford hit back-to-back doubles in the second inning that gave the Warriors both momentum and confidence that they never relinquished.
Cierra Saenger hit a three-run home run two hitters later, and then Michaela Boyette hit a double, followed by Walk’s single to cap an eight-run second inning. Ford had a home run in the third inning, while Saenger and Mailee Maka each added a double.
While the Warriors' offense connected with just about everything Granger’s pitchers threw, the team’s defense was nearly perfect, giving up just one hit in the top of the fourth inning.
Walk said the team has bonded “really quickly” this season, and she credits the patience of the coaches and some of the captains for their leadership.
“I really like this coach,” she said. “These are my favorite coaches so far in high school. Our center fielder Savanna Montoya has provided the best leadership, I think. She’s been the captain for the past two years. She pumps us all up, and she treats us all like we’re her best friend. She is always there for us on and off the field.”