One swing of the bat … one heart-stopping moment … one thrilling individual effort.
The Spanish Fork softball team had done enough in five innings of Friday’s 4A elimination game against Ridgeline in Spanish Fork to build a four-run lead but in the top of the sixth, the momentum appeared poised to shift in favor of the Riverhawks.
With two runners on base and two outs, Ridgeline’s Ellie Mons got a pitch she liked and hit a towering fly ball to center field.
Don senior center fielder Marae Condie was backing up with the crack of the bat — but she was running out of real estate.
Her eye tracked the ball as it came down, just deep enough to clear the fence. The three-run home run would’ve been a huge boost to the Riverhawks.
But Condie timed her leap perfectly, snagging the ball out of the air as she flipped over the fence and landed hard beyond it. She rolled and came up holding ball for the final out of the inning, having robbed Ridgeline of the big play.
That catch kept Spanish Fork in front and the Dons went on to get the 5-1 win, eliminating the Riverhawks and keeping their season alive.
“It’s so exciting,” Condie said. “All of our hard work is paying off. We had a rough region schedule but now we are coming together and proving everyone wrong.”
She said that as she watched the ball on that critical catch, she knew she had a chance at it.
“It was so fun,” she said. “I can’t explain what it was like. It felt so awesome and then to have my whole team come running out to congratulate me was so great.”
Spanish Fork head coach Don Andrews said there was just an instant where he thought everything had gone wrong.
“Last year at state, Marae had a similar opportunity on a long hit but jumped straight up and couldn’t get to it,” Andrews said. “This time she angled her jump and that made a big difference. She’s a good athlete and is always going to give her all. For a moment I thought I saw the ball and my heart stopped — but it was in her glove. It was a great catch.”
If the ball had gone over the fence and the Dons had only led by a single run, that would’ve made the seventh inning even that much more nail-biting.
As it was, Ridgeline made one final bid to rally as it loaded the bases with just one out.
“It’s never easy,” Andrews said. “They started crowding the plate and I got a little fancy calling pitches to Briley Young. Some days, you don’t have to be fancy. We went to her bread-and-butter.”
Young struck out the next Riverhawk batter, then got the final hitter to lift another fly ball to Condie to end the game.
The victory sends Spanish Fork once again to the final day of the 4A tournament, something the Dons have now done in 10 straight years.
“This is always where you want to be,” Andrews said. “Winning it is nice, but getting to the last day is always very gratifying. If anyone thinks it is easy, they should go try it. It’s not easy to get there year after year.”
Spanish Fork hopes it will be a long day of softball.
“We have to take it one game at a time and keep doing all the little things,” Condie said.
The Dons will take on Bear River in the final elimination game at 10 a.m. Saturday at the Spanish Fork Sports Complex. The winner of that game will play Tooele, needing to beat the Buffaloes twice to win the title.