They’re a tough team, and we knew that. But I was fairly confident that we could maybe beat them because the last time we played them, we left 13 runners on base. —Bear River head coach Calvin Bingham
SPANISH FORK — The quarterfinal game between second-ranked Tooele and fifth-ranked Bear River looked like it would be a pitcher's duel for three and a half innings.
When shortstop Taylor Fox smacked a double down the left-field baseline in the bottom of the fourth inning, it became crystal clear the Bears prolific offense had no intention of staying quiet Thursday afternoon.
“They’re a tough team, and we knew that,” said Bear River head coach Calvin Bingham after the Bears upset the Buffalo 8-4 in the quarterfinals of the 4A state softball tournament. “But I was fairly confident that we could maybe beat them because the last time we played them, we left 13 runners on base.”
He said that while Kapri Toone is a talented pitcher and the Bears defense is stingy, it was their bats that gave him comfort as they prepared for a deep, competitive tournament.
“I have felt with this bunch that anybody, all the way through the lineup,” he said, “can hit the ball. Look at our eighth batter (Maddi Morris) is the one who got that nice hit with two RBIs.”
After Fox’s double, the Bears’ offense came alive. Oaklie Maxfield got on base after being hit by a pitch, and then Toone hit a single that allowed Fox to score. Maxfield survived two runs down on Toone’s hit and a fielder’s choice by Oaklee Trapp, on which everyone was safe.
But it was Morris’ hit to right field in a vicious gust of wind that allowed Maxfield and Toone to score and shifted momentum in the Bears’ favor.
Tooele opted to change pitchers as Fox prepared for her second at-bat of the inning with two outs and a 6-0 lead. On her first pitch, Fox sent the ball over the centerfield fence for a two-run home run.
“She is a gutsy, gutsy player,” said Bingham. “She is just a hard-nosed player. ...She shows everybody you have to play hard and get your nose in there.”
Her teammates offered her a round of applause after the game, which she said “felt good.” The players admitted there was a bit of revenge on their minds as Tooele edged them by a single run in a non-region contest.
“I knew we could get it done because in our last game, we left a ton of runners on, and we hit (Tooele pitcher Attlyn Johnston) her hard. I just know we were all super pumped and ready for this tournament.”
When Tooele ended the Bears’ fourth-inning rally at eight runs. And, as the Bears expected, the Buffaloes found success at the plate in their next at bat.
“For a minute, I was thinking we were going to run rule them,” Toone admitted. “But they wanted revenge. They’re not going to go down easy.”
Fox said she tried to put Toone at ease after a grand slam home run by centerfielder Bryerly Avina.
“I just said, ‘Kapri, people are going to get hits. That’s why we have insurance runs. We got you.’”
Toone’s defense ended the Buffaloes rally at four runs, and then both teams held each other scoreless, as neither pitcher even gave up another hit.
Both semifinal games were thrillers featuring the top seeds from each region. Cedar edged top-ranked Spanish Fork 2-1 in the other championship bracket game.
The teams were tied 1-1 as Spanish Fork tried to force extra innings by holding Cedar. The Dons had two spectacular defensive plays — a diving catch by third baseman Mallory Barber and a jaw-dropping, diving catch by centerfielder Marae Condie — but a fielder’s choice by Pua Johnson with the bases loaded allowed Shaun Bauman, who got on base because of an error, to score the game-winning run.
Cedar and Bear River will play in the semifinal game at noon Friday at the Spanish Fork Softball Complex.