When the Springville softball team took on Maple Mountain in a Region 8 game on Wednesday, Red Devil head coach Jill Thackeray said nothing felt right.
The game was moved to Spanish Fork because of field conditions and Springville seemed to have a tough time finding its groove at all, making errors in the field and struggling to hit in the 6-3 loss to the rival Golden Eagles.
But the Red Devils didn’t have a lot of time to try to get their minds right, since league-leading Skyridge was coming to town looking to avenge its only loss of the season (a 6-0 setback to Springville on April 24).
How would the Red Devils respond?
The answer came in the first inning, as Springville got the Falcons to go down in order (including two strikeouts by sophomore pitcher Mckenna Thomas) and then jumped in front on Thomas’ two-run home run.
The Red Devils rode that momentum to a big second inning, then put the game away with pitching and defense to get the 7-0 victory.
“We were disappointed (after the loss) and knew we could do better,” Thackeray said. “We had a great response in the first couple of innings.”
Thomas explained that the mentality was to put Wednesday’s defeat behind them and just play — but that’s easier said than done. She said the way the Red Devils started the game set the tone.
“We what to forget about yesterday, to play hard and whatever happened, happened,” Thomas said. “I think it helped for us to start strong.”
The Springville sophomore got the team going with her pitching and hitting, although the two-run home run came in a high-stress situation.
“It was a full count,” Thomas said. “I knew she had thrown me a change-up before but no matter what she threw if it was close, I was going to swing.”
She got so much of the ball that she knew immediately it was gone, allowing her to not rush around the bases. That score got the team going, Thomas said.
Thackeray said the top of her batting order always sets the tone for how a game is going to go.
“We focus on getting those outs and scoring,” she said. “When we do that, we play well.”
The visitors had a tough time after the disheartening opening frame, Skyridge head coach Riley White said.
“When you go down 1-2-3 to start, it can dictate how you play the game,” he said. “We’re working on not letting it dictate that. Starts are everything.”
Springville definitely had the upper hand in the second inning, against shutting down the Falcons before getting rolling at the plate.
The Red Devils put together five singles and a walk to plate five more runs. The visitors turned to freshman pitcher Heather Berrett and she started getting outs — including 11 straight strikeouts.
“I’m super-proud of her,” White said. “I’m proud of the way she responded in that situation. To do as well as she did against those hitters isn’t easy.”
But Springville had too big of a lead, with Thomas making good pitches and the defense making solid plays behind her.
“The thing Thomas did so well today was to get ahead in the count,” Thackeray said. “That put her in the driver’s seat and she could use her other pitches. Her rise-ball was working and it was good to have that as a go-to pitch.”
Thomas was quick to credit the rest of the Red Devil fielders, who didn’t have any errors.
“My defense is awesome,” Thomas said. “I couldn’t ask for a better defense. They do a great job.”
With the win, Springville stayed in the Region 8 title chase, one that features Skyridge, Maple Mountain and Wasatch.
“We want to be taking this momentum moving forward,” Thackeray said. “We want to focus on the things we can control. We can’t get wrapped up in other things. Our pitchers can get outs but we need to hit. When we do that, we win.”
Thomas agreed that a second win over the Falcons provides a boost to the Red Devils.
“It helps with our confidence a lot and puts us in a good place,” she said.
Springville (14-11, 5-3) next hosts Timpanogos on May 7, while Skyridge (17-2, 6-2) hosts Enterprise on Friday before heading to Wasatch on May 7 in a game that will go a long ways toward determining who will win the region title.
All games are scheduled to begin at 3:30 p.m.