In all seven innings of Saturday’s 4A second round state softball game at Tooele, the Spanish Fork defense got the first two Buffalo batters out.
It was what happened after that proved to be the difference in the defensive struggle.
Tooele hitters combined for six crucial two-out hits that scored all of their runs as the Buffaloes defeated the Dons, 4-0, and pushed Spanish Fork into the elimination bracket of the 4A tournament.
“You don’t win many games when you score zero runs.” Don head coach Don Andrews said. “They are a good team. Every time we made a mistake with two outs, they capitalized on it.”
The home team took the lead in the bottom of the second inning after a strikeout and a flyout. Tooele proceeded to get a walk, a ground-rule double and a two-RBI single by Hope Weight to go up 2-0.
It was the same story in the bottom of the third, when the Buffaloes from a flyout and a strikeout with three straight singles, plating a third run.
The Spanish Fork defense got a groundout and a lineout in the bottom of the fifth before Tooele’s Amber Lujan saw a pitch she liked and hammered it over the fence in right-center field for a solo home run and the final run of the contest.
“I think Lujan is one of the better hitters in the state,” Andrews said. “We couldn’t get a pitch by her.”
Four runs certainly isn’t an insurmountable tally for a team with the hitting ability of Spanish Fork — but the Dons again struggled to get going.
Tooele pitcher Attlyn Johnson kept the visitors off-balance as she only surrendered two hits and finished with 14 strikeouts.
“She’s a good pitcher and we moved back in the batter’s box too late,” Andrews said. “It’s always easier in hindsight but our swings were a lot better. What I preach is to get three quality swings on three quality pitches and take your chances.”
The best Spanish Fork opportunities came early in the game.
Thanks to a pair of hit batters and an error in the field, the Dons had the bases loaded in the top of the first inning but couldn’t get the hit they needed.
Spanish Fork also got a runner to second with no outs in the top of the third, but were again unable to bring her around.
The Dons did get a solid overall outing from pitcher Briley Young, who gave up just six hits and struck out eight.
It was her second game of the day in the circle, as in the 4A first round game preceding the Tooele matchup, Young struck out 14 as Spanish Fork blanked Ridgeline, 7-0.
“We had a plan for Ridgeline and it worked,” Andrews said. “They didn’t have an overpowering pitcher — which is the type of pitcher we have struggled with.”
Even though his team is now in the elimination side of the 4A bracket, Andrews still believes his team can make a run.
“We’re still OK,” he said. “We’re still alive. I told the girls we are lucky. Tooele is likely going to win four games and then wait while we get to play seven or eight. We don’t want to just sit around waiting.”
Spanish Fork will be in a familiar setting for the remainder of the tournament, since the rest of the 4A softball playoffs will take place at the Spanish Fork Sports Complex starting on May 16.
There also might be some familiar opponents, since the three other Region 10 representatives (Uintah, Lehi and Payson) all lost on Saturday as well.
The Dons will face the Stansbury/Payson winner in their first elimination game, which will take place on May 16 at 1:30 p.m. If Spanish Fork wins that game, it will then play again at 3:30 p.m. that same afternoon.