It was a picture-perfect scenario for a high school rivalry softball battle: Bottom of the seventh inning, game tied, runner on second base ... and a big hit to a gap in the outfield.
That was the situation for Lone Peak against American Fork Tuesday afternoon in Highland as junior pitcher Kora Lowe triumphantly rounded third and crossed the plate for the 5-4 walkoff victory.
But there was no big celebration for the Knights.
They were savoring the fun so much that it took the umpire declaring the game over for it to even set in.
“I didn’t even realize it was over until he said ‘Ball game!’” Lone Peak head coach Dionne Muse said with a grin. “I was thinking about who to send up to hit but it turned out I didn’t have to.”
In many ways it was a fitting end to an exciting game that was more about the Knight and Caveman softball players enjoying playing the sport they are so passionate about.
“It’s easier to play if you are having fun,” Lone Peak senior catcher/third baseman Jen Uselac said. “As long as you know you are doing your very best and having fun doing what you love, then the score doesn’t matter. It’s not about the score or winning. I’ve played softball for 12 years and while it’s fun to win, losing doesn’t matter if you have a positive attitude.”
American Fork head coach Leslee Warr said that with such an unusual 2020 season, just being able to play is a victory.
“We’re all in the same boat,” Warr said. “We haven’t practiced or played in 80 days. I’m really proud of these girls. You see some tears after we lost and you see how passionately they care and the love they have for the game. I’m just so thankful that we are able to do it.”
There were plenty of miscues, of course, but the girls spent much of the game laughing together at the plate or on the bases, even chatting with members in the other team’s dugout. That kept both sides loose as they kept bouncing back.
Lone Peak took the early lead, scoring a pair of runs in the bottom of the first inning.
American Fork responded by tallying one run in the top of the third, but the Knights answered with a run of their own in the bottom of the fourth.
Trailing by two runs, the Cavemen put together a charge when they got up to bat in the sixth.
A walk, an RBI triple by shortstop Alex Porter and an RBI single by second baseman Hali Spencer tied the game. The visitors then took their first lead when left fielder Ciera Hardy was able to score from third when a teammate was in a rundown between first and second.
But Lone Peak had the advantage of being at home and got one final chance to go back in front. The Knights put together three straight hits to get the walkoff victory.
Muse credited Lowe for pitching a great game in the circle and keeping Lone Peak in it.
“For not playing all season, I’m happy with the way we played,” Muse said. “The best part was that we had fun. Everyone had a good time and that’s all that counts.”
Warr said she hopes her underclassmen gained valuable experience, even with the disappointment of losing.
“You take moments like this and chalk them up as learning experiences,” Warr said. “You don’t have all situations go your way, so you have to be able to rise above.”
For Uzelac and the other four seniors who participated Tuesday (one from Lone Peak, three from American Fork), these bonus games are all about enjoying the moment.
“I’m going to savor it as long as I can,” Uzelac said. “I’ve played with these girls for three years and they’ve been the best three years of softball. I love these girls and I love playing with them. They are so much fun to be around.”
American Fork will play its final game when it hosts Pleasant Grove, while Lone Peak plays next at Westlake. Both games are scheduled to be played Wednesday at 3:30 p.m.