SANDY — After leading much of Tuesday's first-round 5A softball playoff game against Alta, Box Elder found themselves in a bind. A grand-slam off the bat of Makenzie Evans gave Alta their first lead of the game, 9-8, after five complete innings.
In the bottom of the sixth, Box Elder senior, Mallory Merrill stepped into the box. On an 0-2 pitch, Merrill delivered a two-run shot to center to lift the Bees to a 10-9 victory in the opening round of the Utah 5A softball playoffs.
“Having been a pitcher before, I know you don't give them anything on an 0-2 pitch so I wasn't expecting to get a good pitch,” Merrill said. “But I saw it, and it looked right down the middle, so I thought, 'I'm going for it,' and it paid off.”
With two freshman pitchers, Tegan Mecham and Kamryn Peterson pitching the majority of the innings this season, the Bees had a bit of an up-and-down season. Just 10-16 during the regular season, third in Region 5, Box Elder came up clutch in the playoffs.
“We had a few mental errors that cost us pretty big early in the game, but the girls just didn't give up,” said Box Elder coach Taleas Nelson. “We've been kind of up and down this year so seeing them come through and pull that out was huge for us.”
The Bees jumped on Alta early, manufacturing three runs in the first inning. Sydnie Blacker led things off with a walk before stealing second. Kallie Bair reached on a walk before the runners both advanced on a wild pitch. Mickelle Lish's base hit scored Blacker. With the bases loaded, Sophie Blacker drew a walk that scored Bair. Merril's sacrifice fly pushed Lish across for a 3-0 Box Elder lead.
The Hawks managed one run in the first inning then found some life with a two-run third.
Tied at 3-3, Box Elder responded with a barrage of base hits, eventually scoring three runs to open up a 6-3 lead. The Bees pushed one across in the fifth, taking a 7-3 lead.
Morgan Sears singled to start the Hawk fifth inning. With Tasha Jenson pinch-running, the Hawks found their bats. Jenson eventually scored, cutting the lead to 7-4. Alta pitcher Evans stepped into the batters box with the bases loaded with no outs. She cleared the bases with a monstrous shot to straight-away center as Alta took their first lead of the night.Comment on this story
Box Elder's freshman starter, Mecham, gave way to teammate and fellow freshman, Peterson, after Evans' blast with the Bees trailing 9-8 heading into the sixth inning.
Merrill's two-run homer gave Box Elder a 10-9 lead with Peterson slamming the door shut. The freshman walked the Alta bases loaded with two outs before drawing a pop-up from Hawk Megan Gillett to end the game
“Kamryn Peterson has been ice for us all year,” Nelson said. “We have two freshman pitchers and I think they compliment each other perfectly.”
Box Elder advances to play West on Thursday. Alta will play Maple Mountain as the 5A tournament is a double-elimination event.