With one swing of the bat, Tooele senior Attlyn Johnston appeared to give the Buffaloes’ softball team the spark it needed in Game 2 of the Class 4A state championship series against Bear River on Saturday in Spanish Fork.
However, with one improbable catch, Bear River center fielder Olivia Taylor went viral — and helped spark the Bears to a 4-2 win to force a decisive third game. In the finale, Bear River dominated from start to finish in a 14-6 win, derailing Tooele’s hopes of a second-consecutive Class 4A title.
With her team trailing 4-1 in the bottom of the fourth inning, Johnston ripped a line drive to straightaway center field that appeared destined for a solo home run, which would have cut Bear River’s lead to just two runs. However, Taylor reached over the temporary fence and robbed Johnston of the round-tripper as she landed on the other side, preserving the Bears’ three-run lead.
Bear River (27-6) built an early 2-0 lead in the first inning on back-to-back home runs off Johnston by sisters McCall and Oaklie Maxfield. Oaklie Maxfield also ripped a two-run double down the right-field line in the third inning to extend the Bears’ lead to 4-0 before the Buffaloes (28-5) got on the board on a perfect bunt by Paige Rydalch that drove in Emma Higley in the bottom of the third.
Tooele eventually got its second run of Game 2 in the bottom of the sixth on a two-out, RBI infield single by Lizbeth Garcia that brought in Kate Hogan. However, that was all Tooele could muster against the sophomore pitching duo of Baylee Sorensen and Kate Dahle, who combined to allow just eight hits with six strikeouts and two walks.
Johnston was credited with the loss despite allowing just five hits and a walk with 11 strikeouts in a complete-game effort.
That sent the series to Game 3, where the Bears built a commanding 6-0 lead in the first four and a half innings. A pair of uncharacteristic errors led to Bear River’s first run in the top of the first inning, and a sacrifice fly by Kortnie Burton and a single up the middle by Carlee Miller made it 3-0 in the third.
Bear River doubled its lead on a three-run home run by Cami Gibbs with two outs in the top of the fifth, and an infield single by Kinley Toone brought Johnston’s time in the pitcher’s circle to a close. Reliever Sadie Baker got the Buffs out of the inning without any further damage, but things had already gotten out of hand at that point.
Bear River threatened to end the game by the 10-run rule in the sixth inning, scoring four runs in the top of the frame before Tooele broke up Dahle’s shutout when Hogan scored on an error in the bottom half of the inning. The Bears tacked on four more runs in the seventh on a two-run home run by McCall Maxfield and a two-run single by Dahle.
Tooele scored five times in the bottom of the seventh, including a three-run home run by Ayden Fitch, but it wasn’t enough as Bear River captured the state championship.
No. 1 Tooele 5, No. 2 Bear River 0
Johnston pitched a complete-game three-hitter on Friday, striking out three and walking four in a dominating performance. Higley’s three-run home run off Dahle in the bottom of the sixth inning gave the Buffs some much-needed insurance runs, completing a day in which she went 2-for-2 with four RBIs. Johnston was 2-for-3 with a double and an RBI.
No. 1 Tooele 11, No. 4 Canyon View 3
Less than 24 hours after a hard-fought, extra-innings win over the Falcons, the Buffs had no such struggles in a rematch with state-championship berth on the line. Tooele led 6-1 through five innings, taking control with two runs in the bottom of the first and three more in the second.
Hogan was 1-for-4 with a three-run home run for the Buffs, and Johnston and Kennedie Anderson also went deep in the victory. Rydalch was 2-for-4 with three RBIs.