BOUNTIFUL — Clouds swirled overhead and threatened rain as Bountiful Braves pitcher Corinne Hall took the circle in the matchup against the East Leopards in the second round of the 5A state softball tournament, ending 8-1 in Bountiful's favor.
After Hall and the infield retired East’s first three batters in order, Bountiful’s center fielder Libbie Hawker led off with a double to left-center and the Braves burst out to an early lead with two more doubles in the first inning that scored a run each. Hall allowed East’s only run of the game in the second inning after consecutive doubles from the Leopards’ shortstop Isabella St. Hilaire and catcher Maya Johnson.
Bountiful limited the damage in the inning by picking off East’s pinch-runner with a well-executed trick play. In the bottom of the second, Hall reached base on a hit, stole second, and was driven in by first baseman Abby Steed, who hit a double to deep right field. Steed was driven in by Hawker, who finished the game 3-3 with a double, two hits, two RBIs, a run scored and a stolen base.
“When I went in today, I wanted to play to the best of my abilities, but also try and get my team started,” Hawker said. “It was a good day. I was having fun and I felt like I saw the ball pretty well.”
Hall was dialed in for the game and never saw more than four batters an inning and faced only four over the minimum.
“I feel good after playing these games,” Hall said. “I came in thinking, ‘OK, if I can get a no-hitter, that’d be awesome’ and then I just go from there. I just want to do my very best and always come out on top.”
East’s standout performance came from Johnson, whose double and single accounted for half of the Leopards’ four hits in the game. Despite some early success, they were unable to string hits together or get on base with consistency. Bountiful was able to score three runs in the fourth inning and another in the fifth to bring the final score to 8-1.
Bountiful’s defense was on full display throughout the contest as all 21 outs came on balls put in play, but was highlighted by two great plays late in the game. In the sixth, third baseman Alyssa Bowles caught a hard-hit line drive and doubled off the runner at third with a diving tag for an unassisted double play. In the seventh, left fielder Ashlee McPhearson made a terrific running catch and an excellent throw to double off the runner on second to end the game.
“(McPhearson’s) made those catches for three years,” coach Butch Latey said. “Speed kills.”Comment on this story
“It’s looking at where their feet are placed on the plate and knowing the hitter,” Bountiful catcher Sophia Stoddard stated after the game regarding the success of the pitching against East. “Corinne (Hall) has a good curveball and a really good change-up and so, I think we took advantage of that this game.”
Looking ahead, Bountiful will play Farmington in the third round of the state tournament, a team it has played and beaten three times this year.
“The pressure’s there and, as a team, we perform really well under pressure,” Stoddard said. “When the pressure’s on us, we tend to play better, but we still have fun.”
East will advance via the losers bracket and will play Cottonwood, a team it beat 12-9 in their only meeting back on April 1.