In a world where the win-at-all-costs mentality is working its way into even the lowest levels of sports, the Grantsville softball team is a breath of fresh air.
The Cowboys showed that it is possible to win and still have fun doing it. They dealt with high-pressure situations in crucial games by acting like there was no pressure at all.
How do you cope with a controversial call in a state championship game? A dance-off, of course. It seemed to work for Grantsville seniors Brayle Crosman and Reannon Justice on Saturday during a delay after teammate Alese Casper was called out, then safe, then out again on a play at the plate.
Meetings in the pitcher’s circle never ended without smiles all around — not even with two runners on, two outs and the tying run coming to the plate in the form of one of Class 3A’s best players in the bottom of the seventh inning of the state title game. Grantsville gathered in the circle shortly after Casper got Bear River’s Dacia Hobbs to fly out to shortstop Hannah Butler, discussing how to handle Bears star Kapri Toone. Whatever was said was light-hearted, and, better yet, it worked, as Toone hit a fly ball to Addison Smith to end the game and give Grantsville its first state championship since 1998.
There’s no doubt it took a lot of hard work for the Cowboys to get here. There have been a lot of disappointments along the way for this senior class, which saw previous teams get to the state tournament and falter in the face of high expectations. This year, Crosman, Casper, Justice and Breanna Dzierzon were determined to write a different ending.
One thing that was apparent with this year’s team from Day One was their relaxed approach. Not that they weren’t dedicated to winning. They absolutely were. They were good and knew it. The confidence was there. But they also remembered that softball is, in fact, a game, and they approached it as such. This is a team that brought its own walk-up music with it on the road and sang along with it from the dugout, and saw its coach, Heidi Taylor, take part in an impromptu dance-off or two.
There were times late in the season that it seemed the Cowboys might be headed for another almost-but-not-quite-good-enough finish. They lost the Region 10 finale to Stansbury, though they’d already clinched the region title, and lost to Bear River the next time out. But that was the last time Grantsville tasted defeat. The Cowboys beat Bonneville just before the state tournament, and allowed just seven runs in five postseason games to finish with a flourish.
So, congratulations, Cowboys. And thank you for reminding us all that even when the pressure is on, it’s still just a game.
Darren Vaughan is a veteran sports writer from Moab, Utah. He wishes the pressures of his job could be solved by dancing, but he’d probably get some weird looks from coworkers. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.