It was a crazy win. State is crazy ... just crazy. —Herriman coach Heidi McKissick
TAYLORSVILLE — Syracuse had nothing to lose. Herriman played to win and, when it came down to the final two innings Thursday afternoon in the 6A state championship softball game, the Mustangs made the necessary plays to capture the title with a 6-5 win.
Lexi Slade and Libby Parkinson hit home runs, but it was Sydnee Hoffman’s bases-loaded dribbler down the third-base line that scored the winning run in the eighth inning that allowed Herriman to take home the first-place trophy and end principal Jim Birch’s career at Herriman on a winning note.
“It was a crazy win,” said Herriman coach Heidi McKissick during her team’s post-game celebration on the Valley Complex field. “State is crazy . just crazy.”
Birch, who has been Herriman’s only principal since the school opened, is moving to West Jordan next fall after having been a fixture at Mustang sports events over the last eight years. He had trouble sitting still Thursday after Herriman saw its 4-1 lead evaporate and Syracuse actually took a 5-4 advantage following two hit-batsmen with the bases loaded.
Parkinson, also Herriman’s pitcher, made up for it immediately, however, with a solo shot over the left-field fence that tied the game and forced extra innings.
“My heart dropped a little bit (after the hit batsmen), but I always knew I had a great team behind me,” she said.
“She gutted it out and got it done,” said McKissick.
Under UHSAA rules, extra innings begin with each team starting with a runner on second base. Syracuse eventually loaded the bases with one out and Kylie Derrick lifted a fly to short-left field that Krystal Kemp caught and then fired a perfect throw to nail the sliding runner at home.
“Perfect throw, perfect tag. Nothing more we could do,” said Syracuse coach Kelly Anderson, who admitted he had no doubt whether to send the runner.
“We were playing on house money,” he added. “We rolled the dice. Had nothing to lose.”
“Bam, bam,” noted McKissick. “Momentum.”
Starting, too, with a runner at second, Herriman also loaded the bases when Hoffman came to the plate to face Syracuse’s Ashtyn Bauerle, who gave up only six hits to one of the state’s most potent offenses.
Visser topped the ball and sent it spinning awkwardly down the third-base line, and Cassidy Adams ran past the action and slid home safely to decide the game.
“I never doubted it (we would win),” said McKissick, whose team defeated Syracuse 16-2 earlier this season, later won the Region 3 title and then moved through the state tourney with six straight wins. “We had 10 losses (this season), but we learned from them each time and that lit a fire under us.”
Syracuse ended with a 16-7 record, but captured the Region 1 crown and won five games at state, including four in the last three days. The Titans defeated Bingham 4-3 earlier Thursday to advance to the title game, but would have had to beat Herriman twice to win it all.
“We just wanted to give ourselves a chance that’s all we wanted,” Anderson said. “Then see what would happen.”
Bruce Smith grew up in Boise, Idaho, and is a longtime newspaper sports writer. He writes primarily high-school sports articles for the Deseret News.