We’re not just playing for our team. We’re playing for our whole community. —Gunnison head coach Tyson Brackett
SPANISH FORK — It may be Emily Brackett and her teammates who have to make the plays and earn the hits, but Gunnison's softball team isn’t just competing for themselves when they take the field at the 2A softball tournament this week.
They carry with them the hopes and dreams of every female athlete to compete for Gunnison High since 1979.
“Gunnison softball has never been in this position,” said Gunnison head coach and Emily’s dad, Tyson Brackett, after the Bulldogs earned wins over Enterprise (5-3) and Beaver (14-2) Friday afternoon to advance to the 2A title game Saturday at 1:30 p.m. “I think the highest they’ve finished is third in the state, and that was in 2001. We haven’t won a championship in any girls sport in 39 years.”
The school has produced some great individual athletes, but they’ve never been able to bring home the top prize for nearly four decades. Senior Emily Brackett and her teammates, who've won back-to-back region titles, hope to change that this weekend.
“We’re not just playing for our team,” the coach said. “We’re playing for our whole community. ...We have a whole community behind us, including these little girls (coming up) and a whole community that’s behind us. We’ve had a ton of support, and that’s what we’re playing for.”
The Bulldogs looked dominant Friday, earning a win over Enterprise after a two-hour lightning delay, followed by a five-inning victory over Beaver. The Beavers seemed shell-shocked by the prolific Bulldog offense that started when Emily Brackett smashed a home run in her first at-bat.
“That’s kind of what I wanted,” Tyson Brackett said. “We’d kind of struggled against Enterprise, and I asked them, 'Do you want to get on base? Do you like to hit?' Just kind of the basics. They just kind of lit up after that.”
Emily Brackett admitted she feels a bit of pressure, especially as the team’s pitcher. But the players kept their nerves at bay on Friday by dancing through the rain delay (other teams joined the party), and asking their coach to recite a speech from the animated movie “Despicable Me.”
“I told them, 'If you win both (games), you get the speech,'" Tyson Brackett said laughing. “I tried to make it fun.” His effort delighted his players, who erupted with applause and laughter at his performance.
The only issue the coach had with their decisive win over Beaver was the fact that they made three errors.
“That was concerning just because we haven’t done that,” he said, noting that a short discussion seemed to remedy the situation.
The Bulldogs will face the winner of the Enterprise vs. Beaver game. The Wolves defeated Parowan to keep their title hopes alive. Enterprise has beaten Beaver twice this season.