There was no rust after not playing for more than a week.
Ridgeline came out and was all business on the first day of Bracket Play at the 4A State Softball Championship. The Riverhawks are sitting pretty after Wednesday, having won two games and in the driver’s seat to take Bracket 2.
Seeded third, Ridgeline easily took care of seventh-seeded Dixie, 10-0, in five innings to begin the day at the Canyons Softball Complex in St. George. The Riverhawks then faced second-seeded Crimson Cliffs, who had 10-runned Desert Hills earlier in the day. Ridgeline never trailed and handed the Mustangs a 5-1 loss.
“It was a good day,” Ridgeline head coach Mike Anderson said. “We are starting to feel and have a positive mojo right now.”
Ridgeline (23-5) now awaits the winner of Crimson Cliffs and Desert Hills. A Riverhawks’ win on Thursday would punch their ticket to the best-of-three championship series against the Bracket 1 winner. The Crimson Cliffs/Desert Hills winner Thursday morning would need to beat Ridgeline twice to advance.
“We just need to win once to go to the championship,” Anderson said.
Atop Bracket 1 is Bear River. The Region 11 champs rallied to beat Cedar in their opener, 6-3, and then took care of Hurricane, 8-1. Snow Canyon and Hurricane meet to earn the right to try and knock the defending state champion Bears (27-3) off.
While it’s shaping up to be an all-Region 11 championship, there is still work to be done. The Riverhawks are focused on Thursday and not looking ahead to Friday.
“We had a huge team effort Wednesday,” Anderson said. “We need to come out and do that again Thursday.”
In their first game of the day, the Riverhawks came out swinging against the Flyers (14-13). Ridgeline recorded 13 hits as five different players had two each. Adie Hansen, Brinn Anderson, Markessa Jensen, Anne Wallace and Karli Gowen each had two base knocks. The Riverhawks also stole eight bases.
“I’m telling you, the kids came out and hit,” coach Anderson said. “We talked about punching first. ... When you have five kids have two hits, boy it puts pressure on the other team.”
The game started with a bang. With Brinn Anderson and Ellie Pond on base, Jensen helped her cause with a three-run homer to start the scoring in the bottom of the first inning. Kenzee Hale added a solo dinger in the first as the Riverhawks built a 5-0 lead.
“We were off to the races right away,” coach Anderson said.
Jensen made it 7-0 in the second with a two-run blast after Pond drew another walk. Pond has 14 home runs on the season and Dixie was not giving her much to swing at.
“I am super proud of Ellie Pond,” coach Anderson said. “Every scouting report in the state says don’t mess with her. Today, she goes 1 for 1 and draws two walks against Dixie. You are going to pay for walking her.”
Adi Hansen, Brinn Anderson and Pond each had run-scoring hits in the fourth and fifth to help increase the lead to 10 and end it early.
Jensen walked six and struck out eight, while allowing just two Dixie hits. The Flyers stranded eight runners for the game.
“I felt like (Mar)Kessa was trying to find herself a little bit pitching wise,” coach Anderson said. “But when you get a five-run lead, I think that makes you calm down a little bit. And she had two home runs. ... We had some great defense behind her, and Karli (Gowen) did a great job catching, called a great game and got some big hits.”
While Jensen might have struggled a bit with control in the opener, she threw a gem in the second game against a very dangerous Crimson Cliffs squad. The Mustangs (21-4) came into the game with 32 home runs on the season, with five players with more than five dingers each.
Jensen gave up four hits — all singles, and two of them slap hits. The senior struck out 14 and walked three.
“That is as good as I’ve seen Kessa pitch,” coach Anderson said. “She settled down and went to work, and there were some pressure moments with their big hitters. You’ve got to be careful with them (Mustangs), but she (Jensen) was attacking today.”
Seven different Riverhawks recorded a hit against the Mustangs as Ridgeline finished with nine. Hansen and Wallace led the way with two hits each. Wallace smacked a solo home run to right field in the second to get the scoring started. Shelby Blankenship had a double in the game. The aggressive Riverhawks stole nine bases.
Ridgeline added two runs in the third to build a 3-0 lead. Both came on bunts — the first by Brinn Anderson for a single and the second a sacrifice bunt by Jensen.
Crimson Cliffs finally dented the scoreboard in the fourth with a run.
The Riverhawks got two insurance runs in the seventh. Adi Hansen had an RBI single, and Pond brought in the last run with an RBI single.