In their first game of the 5A State Softball Championships bracket play, the Stansbury Stallions fell 2-3 to the Bountiful RedHawks.
The game, which took place at the Cottonwood Softball Complex in Millcreek, was the first game following the team’s 2-1 series win over the Uintah Utes. Despite scoring the game’s first two runs at the top of the first and third innings, the Stallions were unable to fend off Bountiful in the latter stages of the game.
Freshman Savannah Merritt accounted for the team’s offensive production, recording a run on a wild pitch at the top of the first, then later on a series of errors. This gave the Stallions a 2-1 lead at the top of the third.
The middle two innings were silent for Stansbury, with the RedHawks cutting their two-run deficit in half with a single score at the bottom of the fifth. Catcher Athena Tongaonevai earned the run after knocking a home run over the centerfield wall, bringing the score to 1-2 in favor of Stansbury.
After holding the Stallions off the scoresheet at the top of the sixth, Bountiful homered again with a runner on base to pull the team ahead 3-2. With Stansbury unable to respond at the top of the seventh, the Red Hawks held on to win the game 3-2.
Stallions head coach Bridget Clinton said the players were always one play away from winning the game.
“It was a close game, the entire game, (and) hits were hard to come by, for both teams,” she said. “We battled to the very last out; (losing by) one run, sometimes it just goes that way.”
With the state championships being double-elimination, the Stallions had a chance at redemption with a matchup the next day against the Salem Hills Skyhawks.
Savannah Merritt: 2 at-bats, 1 hit, 2 runs
Kaitlyn Hicks: 3 at-bats, 1 hit, 0 runs
Bonnie Barnett: 4 at-bats, 1 hit, 0 runs
Rylan Hecker: 6 innings pitched, one strikeout, 3 ERA
Game two: Stallions softball eliminated from 5A tournament after 4-10 loss to Salem Hills
“That’s the thing about baseball and softball, you can’t (fixate) on the game you just played, you have to forget about it and go to the next play,” Clinton said.
Unfortunately, a weather delay pushed back their next game that was scheduled to take place right after the Bountiful game. Facing off against Salem Hills High, it seemed likely the extra time between games took the wind out of the Stallions’ sails.
A scoring outburst in the third inning by the Skyhawks proved to be too much for Stansbury to overcome, and the team fell 4-10 in their final 5A playoff game.
Having lost to the Bountiful the day before, Wednesday’s matchup was a do-or-die elimination game for Stansbury and one that slipped away fairly early on.
After the Stallions took an early 1-0 lead at the top of the first inning, the Skyhawks responded at the bottom and tied the game at one run apiece.
Stansbury was blanked at the top of the next frame, which led to the Skyhawks opening the game wide open. Early trouble at the bottom of the second enabled Salem Hills to load the bases and score the go-ahead run on a subsequent walk. A single pulled the team ahead, as Stansbury’s deficit extended to 1-3.
With the bases remaining loaded, a Skyhawks batter hit a grand slam to widen the lead to 7-1. Stansbury managed to get out of the inning with two-straight outs, but they found themselves with a long road ahead if they hoped to make a comeback.
Following a scoreless top of the third, Stansbury gave up another run, putting the Skyhawks ahead 8-1 to end the frame. The Stallions put together a two-run fourth, but surrendered another score to Salem Hills bringing the score to 9-3 in favor of the Skyhawks.
Stansbury was only able to muster one final run at the top of the fifth, then let up a run in the next inning to trail 4-10 with the seventh and final inning lurking.
Unable to record any offense at the top of the seventh, the Skyhawks took the 10-4 win to advance to the next round.
With the loss, Stansbury was eliminated from the playoffs.
According to Clinton this year’s playoff run turned a lot of heads, especially considering a 16-14 record that got off to a slow start due to lingering snow that made the team’s field unplayable.
“They had a great season and we played a lot of tough teams,” she said. “We took our lumps all year long and it was a horrible year for the weather.”
But ultimately, Clinton said the team has a bright future ahead of it, as only two seniors are departing and the rest of the team has a strong core returning. She added that in all her 27 years as a coach, this year’s team was one of the most talented teams she’s ever coached.
“They’re fun to watch, and it’s fun to just be a part of it,” Clinton said. “It was a great season; I’m so proud of them.”
Game two stats:
Kaitlyn Hicks: 4 AB, 2 hits, 1 run
Madison Stephensen: 3 AB, 1 hit, 1 run, 1 RBI
Rylan Hecker: 4 AB, 1 hit, 1 run
Bryn Leigh Jones: 3 AB, 1 hit, 1 run
Rylan Hecker: 3.1 IP, 1 strikeout, 3 ERA
Bryn Leigh Jones: 2.2 IP, 0 strikeouts, 3 ERA