We’ve had our ups and downs, but they came out on top. They really stepped it up for the state tournament. —Box Elder head coach Taleas Marble
TAYLORSVILLE — The Box Elder Bees had to win three games on Thursday to win the state title.
After the final out of the third contest, the Bees swarmed each other in a dogpile, having won the 5A state softball championship.
“Taking it the hard way, we’ve been here nine hours today and I’ve got more energy, I could go nine more right now. It’s been awesome, these girls are great, I’m so proud of them. They’ve worked hard all season for me. We’ve had our ups and downs, but they came out on top. They really stepped it up for the state tournament,” Box Elder head coach Taleas Marble said.
Because Box Elder was playing in the one-loss bracket after falling to Bountiful in the semifinals, the Bees had to win three times to secure the title. Box Elder started the day off at noon, defeating West 8-7, then taking down Bountiful 12-7 to force an if game.
In the first game against the Braves, the Bees staged a furious seventh-inning rally to keep their season alive. Trailing by one run heading into the seventh, Box Elder exploded for seven runs in the frame to win. Mallory Merrill had the game-tying RBI, then Kyra Hardy singled home a run to take the lead. A pair of RBI singles made it a three-run lead, then a 3-run homer by Nyah DeRyke all but sealed the deal.
“Mallory and Maycen have just been killing it the last two days, the whole state tournament, they really stepped it up. They’ve been coming together and these girls just wanted it so bad, they worked hard and they earned it,” Marble said.
Bountiful and Box Elder had matched up three times in the regular season, with Bountiful winning all three contests, then the Braves defeated the Bees in the semifinals, but Box Elder would have the last laugh, winning the two championship games.
“We talked to them about having no name on their (Bountiful's) jersey, so it didn’t matter, you’ve still got to beat them. I said, ‘They’ve been better than us this season, but we’re better today,’” Marble said.
It took some more seventh-inning magic for Box Elder to pull out their third win of the day. Bountiful had come back from down 4-2 to tie it with an RBI single by Sophia Stoddard in the fifth inning and a solo home run to centerfield by Livi Arona in the sixth inning.
Then, Maycen O’Neal stepped to the plate for Box Elder in the seventh inning with two outs and a runner on third. O’Neal looped a single over first base to score what would be the winning run in a 5-4 contest.
“I didn’t want a big hit, I wanted something little that would score my teammate. That’s pretty much it,” O’Neal said.
DeRyke was the winning pitcher and her two-run home run in the top of the fifth inning gave Box Elder a two-run lead.
DeRyke induced the final out, a soft roller to first base.
“Honestly, it wasn’t anything different. You can’t let your emotions get to you. I was just like, ‘Pitch strikes. Really finish, get outside, get outside,” DeRyke said. “She was chasing them, so kudos to her. She put up a good fight, but she chased that one that was finally a little too outside.”
After it all was said and done, the Bees ended where they started the season, with three wins in a row.
“I think it was definitely more mentally draining, than physically draining, but it wasn’t too bad. You go to summer ball and you play seven games a day, so three games isn’t too bad. We just had to end where we started. We went three for three in Saint George, so we went three for three today,” DeRyke said.