SPANISH FORK — In a matchup of first-round opponents, the Dons got the better of the Riverhawks again.
However, this time it is was much more competitive. Still, the end result meant Ridgeline’s season came to a close Friday afternoon in the 4A Softball State Championships. Spanish Fork scored first and never trailed in a 5-1 victory.
“Our kids just kept playing hard,” Ridgeline head coach Mike Anderson said. “It’s easy to roll over when you are down, and I didn’t see that in their eyes today. ... We were overachieving at one point, but that was left behind and we started believing. I loved they found that.”
The Riverhawks (21-13) had won four must-win games after suffering a 7-0 setback in the first round of the double-elimination state tournament last Saturday. Ridgeline was trying to make it five in a row with their backs to the wall, but even the adopted toy dinosaur, who had various names, couldn’t help Friday.
“We play for more than the state tournament,” said senior Izzy Telford, who had two hits against Spanish Fork. “We play because we love the game. We play because we love each other. We play in the summer, we play in the fall, we play in the spring and we even play in the winter. Whenever we can, we have our bats in our hands. We just like being on the field together, that’s why this hurts, because we didn’t want it to end. ... I’m so grateful to be a part of this team.”
The Dons (26-7) have now won four straight after losing to Tooele in the second round. Tooele is the only unbeaten team going into the final day. Region 12 champion Bear River will face Spanish Fork Saturday morning and the winner will have to beat Tooele twice in order to claim the title.
Ridgeline had its chances to be one of the three remaining teams, but just couldn’t get the timely hit or break late in the game. The Riverhawks stranded eight base runners for the game, with five of those coming in the last two innings.
“It’s a game of inches,” Anderson said. “We get six more inches on that hit in the sixth and it’s a 5-4 game and we have momentum.”
Trailing by four runs in the top of the sixth, the never-say-die Riverhawks looked to be gaining some momentum. Aree Kidman led off the frame with a hard-hit single. After a pop-up, Telford singled to left. The second out came on a interference call when Kenzee Hale hit a grounder. Elle Mons had the Riverhawk faithful on the edge of their seat when she hit a towering fly to center field that looked to be destined for a three-run homer.
However, Spanish Fork center fielder Marae Condie had other ideas. She tracked down the ball, jumped and made the catch as she tumbled over the temporary fence. The Don held the ball up, and the Ridgeline fans groaned.
“That was a heck of a catch,” Telford said.
“We tried to do our part by putting the ball in play,” Ridgeline’s Tyler Thornton said. “We have to do our part and keep coming back out.”
In the top of the seventh, the Riverhawks rallied again. With one out, Brinn Anderson ripped a pinch-hit double to center field. Thornton was intentionally walked in what would be her final at-bat at Ridgeline.
“It was disappointing not being able to hit, but I took it as respect,” Thornton said. “As soon as they intentionally walked me and I was walking down to first, I was thinking this is great because we have hitters throughout our lineup.”
Brooklyn Anderson juiced the bags with a single to right. Just when it was looking good for the Riverhawks, the Dons starting pitcher came up big. Briley Young struck out the next Riverhawk. Ridgeline’s Laci Leishman worked the count full, then made good contact, but the ball did not carry as deep as the Riverhawks would have liked, and Condie made the catch in center field to end the game and the season for Ridgeline.
The Riverhawks finished with eight hits as Thornton and Telford each had two. Ridgeline did not commit an error. Despite dealing with an injured wrist and lots of pain in her non-throwing hand, Tia Washington went the distance in the circle, striking out five.
“I hate to make any excuse, but her wrist hurts,” coach Anderson said of Washington. “She said ‘tape me up and I’m going out there.’”
Spanish Fork recorded 10 base knocks and had two errors. Young struck out three for the win.
A walk in the bottom of the first came back to bite the Riverhawks. Oakley Bates smacked a RBI double two batters later to put the Dons on the board.
In the second inning, Spanish Fork added three more runs. With the bases loaded and two outs, the Dons were able to get an infield RBI single, an RBI walk and then a wild pitch made it 4-0.
The Riverhawks got on the scoreboard in the third with two outs. Thornton ripped a triple to the left field fence and kept on running home when a throw to third was errant. Thornton slid into home and was called safe.
“I was honestly thinking about the team and doing something to help,” Thornton said. “I was thinking, ‘I can get to the next base, I can get to the next base.’ I was doing it for my team because we needed to get momentum going. ... I thought I could get home and basically thought, ‘I have to get there.’ It was a have to for the team.”
Spanish Fork made it 5-1 in the fourth with a two-out RBI single.
Despite the loss, the Riverhawks made it much further than expected as the third-place team from Region 12. They finished fourth at state.
“Our team worked so hard all year long, and we pick each other up and take care of each other on and off the field,” Telford said. “I know when my teammates are in the box or in the field that they can deliver. This year we have worked so hard on believing in ourselves as much as our coaches believe in us. ... When we were fighting against Cedar and Logan on Thursday, we never let off the gas. Even in this last game, we were hitting the ball and working our hardest. Tia (Washington) never let up in the circle. We never gave up. Sometimes you can do everything right, and they (opponent) make a good play.”
Mike Anderson called the 2019 season one of his favorites at Ridgeline because the Riverhawks exceeded expectations.
“I have some kids we will never, ever be able to replace as players or people,” the coach said. “I say that every year, but I think we have finally hit that special class that we will never have one like it. I will always remember this class for their heart, their determination and for their leadership.”