Bountiful finishes in second place at state 5A softball tournament at state 5A softball tournament
by Tom HARALDSEN
TAYLORSVILLE—There’s an old axiom in sports that it’s difficult to beat the same team three times in a season. For the Bountiful Braves, that wasn’t a problem when dealing with Box Elder. The Lady Braves’ softball team beat the Bees four times in a row.
It was that fifth win that proved elusive.
Last Friday evening at the Valley Complex, the two clear-cut best 5A softball teams in the state battled to a dramatic finish, with Box Elder scoring the game-winning run in the top of the seventh to emerge with a 5-4 victory in the championship game. Earlier in the day, the Bees battled back through the one-loss bracket for a 12-7 win over Bountiful, which forced a second game 30 minutes later.
The tournament began with Bountiful defeating top-ranked West 16-6 in five innings May 22 to reach the 5A state semifinals. The Braves scored 11 runs in the bottom of the first inning. Dashani Purcell and Sophia Stoddard led Bountiful offensively with two home runs each, both going 3-for-4 at the plate. Libbie Hawker recorded a double in a 3-for-3 outing. Senior McHailee Danner celebrated her 18th birthday with a win on the mound. The game ended with a 2-run walk off home run by Stoddard.
Against Box Elder May 23, Bountiful defeated the Bees 5-4 in the teams’ fourth matchup this season. The Braves had a 5-1 lead until the later innings when Box Elder scored three runs to tighten things up.
Stoddard and Alyssa Bowles drove in two runs each – with Bowles connecting on a two-run shot over the centerfield fence. Danner got the scoring started with an RBI double.
That took them to Friday’s doubleheader after Box Elder bested West in the one-loss bracket. Box Elder took a 1-0 lead, but the Braves tied it in the second on an RBI double from Livi Arona. In the third, the Braves scored twice, Danner and Stoddard both knocking in runs.
Box Elder took a 5-3 lead into the bottom of the sixth, but the Braves rallied. Shambre Maestas reached on an error and moved to second on a single by Ashlee McPhearson. Hawker knocked in Maestas on an infield grounder, Tanner singled to move McPhearson to third, and then Dashani launched a triple to right center scoring McPhearson and Tanner. Bountiful took a 6-5 lead into the seventh.
Things looked bright when leadoff hitter Mallory Merrill grounded out for Box Elder, but then the roof caved in. The Bees scored seven runs on five hits, the biggest being a three-run homer by Nyan DeRyke, to take a 12-6 lead. Bountiful did score once in the bottom of the inning, but the 12-7 win moved Box Elder into the championship game.
The finale was a classic. Box Elder scored twice in the top of the first to lead 2-0, but the Braves came back with a pair of runs in the second. After Box Elder took a 4-2 in the fifth following DeRyke’s second homer of the day, Purcell doubled and Stoddard singled her in to cut the lead to 4-3 in the fifth, and Arona homered to deep left in the sixth to knot the score at 4-all.
Box Elder’s Merrill walked with one out in the seventh, and moved to second on a wild pitch. With two down, catcher Maycen O’Neal singled to left, scoring Merrill. It was then up to DeRyke on the mound to shut down the Braves. Purcell led off and reached on an error, and she moved to second on a two-out single by Bowles. But O’Neal caught a line drive for the third out, and the Bees were champs.
“We knew they had a lot of power and were great hitters,” Bountiful coach Butch Latey said. “We’ve had some great battles with them all year and they are very experienced.”
In fact, Bountiful had only two seniors on the team, while Box Elder loses eight players to graduation. Latey praised the Braves “for playing so well and being such a young team. I’m very proud of how they all played this year, and this will be the first softball trophy we’ve ever brought back to the school.”
While many players were emotional after the game, they all thanked Latey and his assistants. This is the 18th year the popular coach has led the softball program, and his 32nd year in all. He previously coached at some Salt Lake City schools. The Braves’ home field behind Millcreek Junior High was named in his honor by the team this year.