All season long, the Grantsville softball team carried a giant target on its back, thanks to its status as the defending Class 3A state champion.
That meant the Cowboys got their opponents’ best effort, game in and game out. But when it came down to it, there was nothing anybody could do to dethrone Grantsville, as the Cowboys punctuated their second-consecutive championship season with a 6-1 victory over former region rival Union in the Class 3A state title game Saturday at the Spanish Fork Sports Park.
“It was way different than it was last year,” Grantsville coach Heidi Taylor said. “They stepped up. There were a few moments where they faltered, but they were way awesome. They stuck together.”
Grantsville (24-5) got a dominant performance in the pitcher’s circle from sophomore Bailey Frischknecht, who had 12 strikeouts and gave up just one hit in six innings. She struck out eight of the first nine batters she faced and had a perfect game going until Union’s Madison Hadlock led off the fifth inning with a single.
“I’m not the nervous type — I love pressure,” Frischknecht said. “It’s so fun to be out there with my girls … they helped me a ton.”
Taylor had her options when it came to picking a starting pitcher for the championship game. She could have gone with Addison Smith, a junior who served as one of her team’s captains and beat South Sevier earlier in the tournament. She also could have gone with sophomore Maddison Peterson, who started the Cowboys’ opening-round win over Providence Hall, or freshman August Cowan, who shut down Union in the semifinals in an 11-1 win Friday night. But it was Frischknecht who got the call, and Taylor was impressed with what she saw.
“Bailey’s ball moves like nothing I’ve ever seen before,” Taylor said. “I’m not surprised. I didn’t pitch her a ton in our region, so other people are probably surprised.”
Frischknecht got plenty of help from her offense as the Cowboys racked up five runs in the third inning to seize control. Peterson led off with a double off the left-center field fence, and Hailey Delaney brought her in with an infield single to break a scoreless tie. Kylee Leach, the Cowboys’ lone senior, added another infield single, and Smith hit a single to shallow left to score Delaney.
Freshman Breana Hiatt grounded out to second, allowing pinch-runner Kyrah Shores to score. That left Smith as the only runner on base when Cowan came to the plate with two outs, and the freshman took the first pitch she saw from Cougars starter Ally Rook and blasted it over the left-field fence to extend the lead to 5-0.
It was the perfect finish to a strong state tournament for Cowan, who admitted to being a little awestruck when the postseason began.
“The first state game, I was a nervous wreck — it was crazy,” Cowan said. “It was a surreal experience. I’ve kind of trained myself to calm down, and it’s all in my head. If you’re strong mentally, you can get through whatever.”
Union (18-9), which was looking to win its first softball title since 1996, responded with a run in the top of the fifth as Hadlock scored on an error. However, Grantsville added an exclamation point with a bit of small ball in the bottom of the frame. Maizie Clark led off with a ground-rule double to left, and advanced to third on Peterson’s groundout to bring Delaney to the plate. Delaney dropped a picture-perfect bunt just in front of home plate as Clark sprinted toward home, and Clark beat the ball to the plate for Grantsville’s sixth run.
Frischknecht got through the sixth inning unscathed before giving way to Smith for the final inning. Smith struck out Malorie Bostick and got Brindy Bartlett to ground out before giving up a single to Abbie Earl, but she fielded Megan Foote’s grounder and made the throw to first baseman Maison White for the final out, sending the Cowboys streaming from the dugout to celebrate in the infield.
“The team unity we have here is a lot different than what you see anywhere else,” Leach said. “I wouldn’t want to battle with anyone else. We had a lot of freshman players and they handled it like champs.”
The championship was Grantsville’s third softball title. In addition to their 2017 victory, the Cowboys also won the Class 2A title in 1998. That ties them with Juan Diego, Lehi, Murray, San Juan and Stansbury for 11th all-time, and puts them behind only Grand (5) and Manti (10) among current Class 3A schools.
According to Utah High School Activities Association records, it also marked Grantsville High’s 60th team state championship across all sports.
Grantsville 11, Union 1
Grantsville erupted for eight runs in the fourth inning to blow open what had been a close game en route to a blowout victory over the Cougars in the semifinals Friday night.
To that point, all the Cowboys had on the board was a single run, thanks to Cowan’s RBI double in the second inning that drove in Laura Sandberg. Cowan added another RBI double in the top of the fourth, and Maizie Clark added a two-run single. Peterson also drove in a run with a single to right and Smith had an RBI groundout as part of the Cowboys’ outburst.
That was plenty of run support for Cowan in the circle, as she allowed just one run on three hits with six strikeouts and no walks in a complete-game effort. She also went 3-for-4 at the plate with three RBIs and two runs scored.
Grantsville 5, Manti 0
Frischknecht recorded 16 strikeouts in a complete-game two-hitter, leading the Cowboys to a big win over the Templars in the quarterfinals.
Leach staked the Cowboys to a 2-0 lead in the first inning with a two-run home run that also scored Peterson. That was all Grantsville would get until Smith’s one-out solo home run in the sixth inning. Later in the sixth, Sandberg reached on a Manti error with two outs to set up Rylee Udom’s pinch-hit home run that provided the final margin.