SPANISH FORK — The only thing more difficult than earning a program’s first championship is trying to manage the pressure of defending that title.
Grantsville did just that with some of the best pitching in any classification, an offense that gives opposing pitcher’s nightmares, and something that outsiders might not see as a key to their second consecutive softball title — a loud and proud bench.
“The dugout is a huge part of it,” said freshman pitcher August Cowan, who played third for most of Saturday’s 6-1 victory over Union. “There’s a bunch of girls that don’t play, but they play a big role in the dugout, and that really helps us keep our intensity up and keep on playing the way that we play.”
And that, Cowan asserted, is how the team maintains the same intensity regardless of the opponent or the scoreboard.
It also doesn’t hurt to have a pitcher like Bailey Frischknecht. The sophomore had 16 strikeouts in Friday’s first of two games, while Cowan earned the win in the second game, ensuring the team would have an opportunity to defend the 3A title. Frischknecht earned 12 strikeouts against Union in six innings of work.
“Bailey is something else,” said senior Kylee Leach, Saturday’s designated player and third baseman.
“She’s got wicked spin. She’s one of a kind.” Grantsville head coach Heidi Taylor knows she’s fortunate to have four talented pitchers.
“They’re pretty awesome,” she said. “Bailey had 16 strikeouts. You can’t not put the ball in her hands.”
Taylor said this year was markedly different from last year in that they were the target of every team instead of the hungry underdog.
"It was way different than it was last year," Taylor said. "But they stepped up. They had a few moments where they faltered but they stuck together."
Union junior pitcher Ally Rook and her defense managed to hold Grantsville scoreless, allowing two hits and giving up a walk in the first two innings, but Taylor said they weren’t worried by the lack of scoring early.
“We always talk about seeing the pitcher one time through the lineup and then making your adjustments,” she said. “They did that. And that was the difference.”
Grantsville leadoff hitter Maddison Peterson got the offensive motor running with a double as the first batter in the third inning. Grantsville finished with 10 hits, including a home run from Cowan and doubles from Peterson and Maizie Clark.
Union senior Madison Hadlock scored the Cougars’ only run when she got on base with a single, advanced on a sacrifice from Malorie Bostick, and then scored on an error. Grantsville held Union to just two hits.
Taylor rewarded Addison Smith for her own great performance earlier in the tournament by letting her throw the final inning.
Leach said what sets Grantsville apart is their chemistry.
“The team unity we have here is a lot different than anywhere else.”
Frischknecht said she was anxious but not nervous as she learned she’d be throwing in the title game.
“I’m not the nervous type,” she said. “I don’t love pressure, but it’s so fun to be out there with my girls. I definitely have to thank my girls; they helped me a ton.”
Taylor said the way her players cared for one and other enabled them to exceed expectations as they are a young team with just one senior on the roster.
"They just love each other," Taylor said. "They’re fun. It’s so fun."
And another thing that's pretty fun? Taking home a championship trophy.
"I wanted one state championship, and now I’ve got two," the coach said, squealing like her players as they celebrated their win. "They’re awesome. I love them."