Skyridge junior pitcher Heather Berrett checked the runners, then toed the rubber and spun the ball in her hand.
She knew — just like everyone in attendance in Saratoga Springs did — how high the stakes were at that moment. Her Falcon team had built a lead on the road against Region 4 foe Westlake but the Thunder had chipped away and put themselves in a position to rally.
Now the tying Westlake run was at the plate and Berrett had to find a way to get one more out to give her team the win.
“It was stressful,” Berrett said after the game. “They have really good hitters, so I knew I had to be very careful with where I pitched the ball.”
Her attention to detail in that tense moment paid big dividends as she rung up a game-ending strikeout, securing the 6-3 victory for Skyridge.
“That was the best feeling ever,” Berrett said. “It was amazing.”
Falcon head coach Riley White said he was proud of how Berrett and the rest of the team closed out the win.
“We had to go through the heart of their batting order, something we didn’t want to have to do,” White said. “We had a plan and we stuck to it. We had to hope Heather (Berrett) hit her spots and she executed really well in a high-energy situation.”
The visitors got the bats going early in the contest, plating a run off an RBI single from freshman third baseman Kadynce Barnes in the top of the first inning.
Skyridge added another when it got up to bat in the second when freshman catcher Irma Medina came up with an RBI single. The Falcons then loaded the bases with just one out.
That brought sophomore designated player Elliot Plewe to the plate and she made the most of the opportunity, crushing a home run over the centerfield fence for the grand slam.
“She has been scrapping for us and she came up big today,” White said. “That was a game-changing blast. That home run and Heather’s performance were what allowed us to win the ball game.”
Berrett said getting those early runs made her job a lot easier.
“I like it when we get some runs up front,” Berrett said. “Then there is less pressure on me and I don’t have to be as precise. Now we just need to keep it going.”
That is the part that concerns White, since he has seen his squad struggle to maintain the offensive momentum.
“We come out hot and get a lead, then we sometimes go into coast mode,” White said. “We don’t want to rely on just one big inning. We need to learn to get through the mid-inning lull before we get to state.”
In the other dugout, Westlake head coach Chad Carpenter didn’t see any quit in his squad even though it fell behind by six runs to a talented opponent.
“All year we haven’t given up,” Carpenter said. “We are a young team in terms of game experience, so it’s important to not see any quit when we face adversity — and we haven’t. We came back and gave ourselves a chance to win, getting the tying run to the plate in the seventh.”
The Thunder managed to get on the board when senior shortstop Jerika Fitting hit a single that drove in a pair of runs in the bottom of the fifth, then got another when Fitting hit an RBI single in the seventh.
Westlake had two runners on base at the end of the game but couldn’t quite string together enough hits to get out of the early hole.
“There were some little things that hurt us,” Carpenter said. “We had some opportunities with some situational hitting where we didn’t execute. Overall, though, we are getting better at those little things.”
The win puts the Falcons in a big lead in the Region 4 standings as they have a two-game advantage plus the tiebreaker over the second-place Westlake.
White, however, wants his squad to realize that there is a lot of softball left and they can’t get complacent.
“This was a huge game for us and we are in the driver’s seat, but our goal is to keep pushing and take care of business,” White said. “Our mindset has been to keep our heads down and grind. If we start coasting, there are teams in our region that our going to get us. Anybody can step up.”
Skyridge (9-3, 6-0) will next play an non-league game against Alta on Wednesday in Lehi, while the Thunder (11-4, 4-2) head on the road to play at American Fork on Thursday.
Both games are scheduled to begin at 3:30 p.m.