MILLVILLE — Perhaps playing from behind has become the new thing for the Ridgeline softball team.
A day after rallying for a win in extra innings to start the 4A state tournament, the Riverhawks were at it again Saturday. This time there was no drama-filled finish, but Ridgeline did have to overcome a slow start against Cedar in the second game of the best-of-three series.
Once the Riverhawks started hitting the ball, it was lights out. Containing the ball in the park was also hard for the visiting Reds as Ridgeline sent four over the fence. The Riverhawks cruised to a 14-4 win in five innings, advancing to the final eight and ending the season for Cedar.
“Instead of thinking we have lost the game, we’ve come together as a team and not gotten down on ourselves about mistakes,” said Kenzee Hale, who hit two dingers. “It has been good.”
Before facing Cedar in the super regional Ridgeline (21-6) had not won a game this season after trailing. Now the Riverhawks have won two.
“We have been really focused this week on coming back because we had won zero games when we got behind,” Ridgeline head coach Mike Anderson said. “Then who bigger than Kenzee Hale to hit that first home run. After that we woke up. We had multiple kids with multiple hits.”
Hitting became contagious quickly for the hosts. Brinn Anderson had the first in the bottom of the second. It was her first of a team-best three in the game, but she was left on base.
“We have worked on implementing what helps us get back up when we are down,” Brinn Anderson said. “Once you verbalize it, it’s easier to implement it. ... To get the momentum in our favor, we kept our dugout up, we kept talking and implemented the coming back when you are down.”
The Reds (8-15) had built a 3-0 lead with two runs in the first and another in the third. Ridgeline had committed errors in both innings.
The Riverhawks shook off the slow start and went to work in the bottom of the third. Shelby Blankenship reached base on a bloop infield single. That brought Hale to the plate. The junior took a 1-1 pitch that was outside and belt high and blasted it over the fence in center field to pull the hosts within 3-2.
“When Shelby got on, it took pressure off, and I wanted to score her,” Hale said. “... I hate that pitch, so I don’t know how I hit that one out. I’ve been working on it. It felt really good.”
Kate Leishman followed the dinger with a single. Then one of the heroes from Friday, Abbie Banning, came to the plate. She worked the count full, then put Ridgeline ahead with a two-run dinger also over the center field fence.
“We started stringing hits and runs together and everyone loosened up,” Hale said.
Cedar did tie up the game in the top of the fourth with two hard-hit doubles.
With the bats awakened, the Riverhawks went to work in the fourth. Singles by Kaylee Smith and Blankenship were followed by two errors as outfielders for the Reds dropped two fly balls. Banning picked up her third RBI of the game with a sacrifice fly to right, giving the hosts a 7-4 lead with one out.
“We like to apply that python pressure,” coach Anderson said.”
Ridgeline was far from being done batting in the fourth. Brinn Anderson swatted an RBI single up the middle to make it 8-4, and Cedar changed pitchers.
It didn’t help.
An RBI double off the fence in center field by Ellie Pond kept the hit parade going. Kori Palmer then made it 11-4 with a two-run homer over the center field fence. Ten batters came to the plate for Ridgeline in the big inning.
“Ellie Pond is no longer playing like a freshman,” coach Anderson said.
Blankenship drew a walk to begin the fifth, which was bad news for the Reds as Hale came to the plate again. This time she took a 1-0 pitch and hit one of the longest, if not the longest, home runs by a Riverhawk deep into the parking lot on the other side of the fence in left field.
“That pitch was low, inside, down the middlish, my favorite,” Hale said. “I love that pitch.”
Banning singled up the middle, stole second and scored the game-ending run on another Brinn Anderson single.
“It’s always fun to hit those game-winning hits, but I don’t think I would have been able to hit like I did if Kenzee hadn’t hit that home run,” Brinn Anderson said.
Ridgeline finished with 14 hits, including the four 2-run homers. Eight Riverhawks recorded a hit and nine players scored a run. Hale and speed-up runner Adi Hansen each crossed home plate three times.
Blankenship started in the circle and ended up going the distance as ace Markessa Jensen played first base. Blankenship allowed eight hits, struck out one and walked one batter.
“Shelby just pitched calm and easy through the whole game,” coach Anderson said. “We are going to need Shelby. ... We had done some scouting on them (Reds) and they had hit a pitcher like Markessa, so we wanted to show them something different. Shelby did really good, and it was fun to see our defense play like it did.”
“It was great to have (catcher) Psadi (Takis) back for a full game today,” Brinn Anderson said. “She did great. And Shelby did a great job pitching today.”
Now the Riverhawks head to Spanish Fork, where the remaining eight teams will battle it out for the 4A title. Action begins on Wednesday at noon.
“We are starting to believe, and we have to keep being able to comeback,” coach Anderson said.
Ridgeline is the fifth seed and is anticipating stiff competition from here on out.
“We just have to think about ourselves and not think too much about the other teams,” Hale said. “We need to play our game. We’ve been playing well lately.”
Hale is the only Riverhawk with experience in the state tournament, especially with last year getting canceled.
“I talk a lot and make sure they know I trust them,” Hale said. “They are prepared and ready.”
OTHER VALLEY TEAMS
It didn’t get much better for the rest of the valley teams on the second day after a tough start on Friday. Mountain Crest lost at Uintah, 11-1, in six innings, Green Canyon was blanked in four at Tooele, 15-0, and Sky View fell at Stansbury, 13-9, as each saw their season come to an end.
At Vernal, the Utes (19-7) scored four runs in the bottom of the first, which would be more than enough against the Mustangs (8-14) to complete the sweep. Mountain Crest kept battling to the end, but Uintah put it away with a five-run fifth.
“Another game where one minute you are right there in it and the next thing you know they have blown it open,” MC head coach Courtnee Maughan said. “Uintah hits the ball very well. The score doesn’t reflect how solid our defense was, and we made some great plays. We hit the ball well all weekend, and Uintah made some great plays.”
The Mustangs finished with six hits as Brooklyn Clark and Halle Maddock had two each. The lone run came from Emma Child, who was brought home by Clark. Aspen Leishman pitched the first 4.1 innings, and Maddock finished in the circle.
“Super proud of Aspen for gutting it out in the circle,” Maughan said. “Teagan Hall and Brooklyn Clark played a couple of their best games of the season, alternating between catch and short. They each had multiple highlight plays.
“Our seniors came to play tough knowing this could be it. I wanted so bad for them to get a few more games.”
The Utes had 14 hits for the game, including four doubles and two home runs.
At Tooele, the Buffaloes (23-3) scored six in the first inning and never looked back. The top-seeded team had 11 hits and one error, while pitcher Attlyn Johnston held the Wolves (9-20) to just two base knocks and struck out nine in the four-inning game.
Kennedy Conan and Annika Eborn had the two hits for Green Canyon. Eborn had a double Three Wolves saw time in the circle, combining to walk five.
"I feel that in yesterday's game we came a little more prepared and ready," GC head coach Joe Astle said. "Tooele, I believe, thought it was going to be an easy game for them as we were coming in as the 16th seed. We came out strong on Friday and our defense held tough."
In Friday's game, the Wolves scored first and lost 6-2.
"Today, Tooele came to play," Astle said. "They were hitting the ball harder and playing harder. We couldn't get the ball in play today and struggled to get runners on base. ... It was good to see our five seniors give their all despite the outcome."
The Bobcats (14-12-1) came oh so close to forcing a third game against the Stallions (16-9-1). Trailing 7-3 heading to the seventh inning, Sky View plated six runs after sending 11 batters to the plate and built a 9-7 lead.
Cambrie Davis, Carlee Watterson and Abbey Cantwell had RBI singles, and the Bobcats got two runs off an error. The final run came when Hadlee Noble was hit by a pitch with the bags juiced.
In the bottom of the seventh, Sky View was an out away from picking up the victory. Stansbury tied the game with runs off consecutive errors. Then the hosts got a walk-off grand slam from Maame Johnson to end the game and complete the sweep.
Sky View outhit Stansbury, 12-8, but had six errors. Tawnee Lundahl led the Bobcats with three hits, while Watterson, Skylee Haramoto, Cantwell and Davis each had two base knocks. Lundahl went the distance in the circle, striking out six and walking six.