The Grantsville softball team has been among the elite programs in Class 3A for years, but didn’t have the championship trophy to show for it.
That all changed May 20 at the Spanish Fork Sports Park, as the Cowboys rode three home runs to a 7-4 win over Bear River in the championship game of the Class 3A state softball tournament to win their first state title since 1998.
“It’s unbelievable,” Grantsville senior Reannon Justice said. “It means a lot. All of the hard work we’ve done at practice has really paid off and it shows.”
Grantsville (25-5) took a 2-0 lead in the first inning and led the rest of the way, though the game wasn’t without its dramatic moments, thanks to a pair of Bear River home runs that kept the Bears (25-6) within striking distance. But the pressure never seemed to rattle the Cowboys, as the relaxed atmosphere that surrounded the team all season carried right through to the final game.
“I’m just so happy for them,” Cowboys coach Heidi Taylor said. “I hope they know that anything they put their minds to, they can achieve. That was the ultimate thing — having fun and achieving greatness.”
Despite struggling in recent years at the state tournament, Grantsville appeared more composed than the defending state champion Bears in the early part of the game. The Cowboys loaded the bases in the first inning against Bear River pitcher Kapri Toone with the help of a throwing error, and Maizie Clark scored the game’s first run on a groundout by Kylee Leach. Addison Smith followed with a base hit to shallow right-center field to score Brayle Crosman with an unearned run to make it 2-0.
Toone cut the lead in half in the bottom of the inning with an RBI single that scored Mercedes Call, but Grantsville scraped together another run in the second as the product of another Bear River error on a ground ball by Crosman, allowing Maddison Peterson to score as the throw from Bears shortstop Lynsey Valverde eluded first baseman Abby Giles. Giles recovered in time to throw out Alese Casper as she attempted to score all the way from first base, but the damage had already been done.
Even having Casper tagged out at home plate on a somewhat controversial call that was reversed twice didn’t seem to rattle the Cowboys. Crosman could be seen dancing as she waited near first base while Taylor discussed the call with the umpires.
“We just love to have fun, and that’s the biggest reason we don’t get rattled,” Casper said. “We love to tell jokes, we dance in the dugout — it’s so much fun.
“We had to make sure we kept our composure,” she added. “We’d always talk between innings about what we needed to do, and we kept up the energy in the dugout. The energy was the game-changer for us.”
Giles scored on an RBI single by Call in the bottom of the third to close the gap to 3-2, but that’s when Grantsville started to show off its power. Sophomore Hannah Butler led off the top of the fourth with a home run to left field on the first pitch of the inning to make it 4-2.
“This is a feeling that I always wanted these girls to experience, because there’s nothing like it,” Taylor said. “Now that the younger girls have had a taste of it, they can strive for that in their futures.”
Valverde homered for Bear River in the bottom of the fifth to make it 4-3, but Grantsville had another answer in the top of the sixth as Smith crushed another home run deep over the fence in left-center to lead off the inning. Dacia Hobbs led off the bottom of the sixth with a home run off Casper to make it 5-4.
That’s when Crosman struck the final blow for Grantsville. With one out in the top of the seventh and Casper standing on second base after a leadoff single and a sacrifice bunt by Clark, Crosman crushed the first pitch she saw from Toone over the right-center field fence, giving her team a three-run lead and sending her on an emotional trip around the bases.
“I knew [Toone] was going to keep us outside the whole time — I knew it was going to be an outside pitch,” Crosman said. “Coach Taylor, before I even went up there, said, ‘hit the Guzzle banner,’ because that’s where the Guzzle banner is at home, so I just hit it over the Guzzle banner. I cried. I didn’t know what else to do besides cry. All those years you’ve played, from coach pitch to your last year of high school softball, the last fastpitch game you’re ever going to play, all of that was for a reason. All of it was for this team and these people.”
The drama wasn’t quite over. Bear River’s Kati Gibbs led off the bottom of the seventh with a single and Taylor Fox’s base hit gave the Bears runners on the corners with one out. But Casper got Hobbs to fly out to Butler at shortstop, and when Toone’s pop fly landed safely in Smith’s glove near the right-field foul line, the Cowboys poured out of their dugout to celebrate their first state championship since before any of their players were born.
“It doesn’t feel real yet,” Grantsville senior Breanna Dzierzon said. “This was my last game. I’m not going to play softball anymore, so it’s fun to end it this way.”
The final victory capped a masterful state tournament for the Cowboys in which they outscored their opponents 29-7 in five games. They opened the tournament with a 12-2 win over Juan Diego at home the previous weekend, and they added a 5-0 win over Desert Hills in a second-round game May 18. A thrilling 1-0 win over Bear River the morning of May 19 in a pitcher’s duel between Casper and Toone guaranteed the Cowboys of a top-three finish, and they advanced to the championship game with a 4-1 win over Ridgeline later that afternoon. Bear River then beat Ridgeline 3-2 on the final day to get to the championship round.