Wednesday , May 23, 2018 - 7:20 PM
TAYLORSVILLE — Dashani Purcell couldn’t find the words. Alyssa Bowles had so much adrenaline going she said she felt like she could play another game.
Bountiful gets to play another game Thursday. A big one, maybe the biggest in the school’s history.
The Braves edged their Region 5 rival Box Elder for the fourth time this season Wednesday, winning 5-4 in the 5A state semifinals to clinch a spot in Thursday’s 3 p.m. state championship game.
Bountiful has never won a softball state championship, nor has it played for one.
“You gotta have a little bit of luck to win games in this tournament, this late anyway,” Bountiful head coach Butch Latey said. “It’s fun for the kids, nobody’s ever been this far at Bountiful.”
The Braves arrived at this point on the backs of sophomores and freshmen.
Bountiful wins a crazy one, 5-4. They'll play for the state title at 3 pm tomorrow pic.twitter.com/bF2cDjxst8— Patrick Carr (@patrickcarr_) May 23, 2018
Where the youth and subsequent inexperience can open itself up to pressure in tight games — such as a state semifinal against a region foe bent on reversing the course of the regular season — the results so far have been spectacular.
Purcell, a sophomore, leads the team with 17 home runs and 54 RBIs, and is batting .506
Bowles (.380), Stoddard (.517) and leadoff hitter Libbie Hawker (.516) round out a prolific group of Bountiful sophomores, complemented by freshmen Livi Arona (.407) and Shambre Maestas (.301).
In the state tournament, the Braves have looked unstoppable, but Box Elder put up the best resistance Wednesday.
McHailee Danner takes advantage with an RBI double. 1-0 Bountiful, T4 pic.twitter.com/xP0UUHZCpc— Patrick Carr (@patrickcarr_) May 23, 2018
For three innings, the region foes locked horns and nobody moved. All nine batters for both teams were retired the first three innings, then Bountiful started the bash party.
In the fourth inning, Katie Tanner and Purcell hit back-to-back singles, McHailee Danner doubled to bring home the first run and catcher Sophia Stoddard grounded out to score another run.
Then Bowles chased pitcher Brylee Marziale out of the game with a two-run home run to center field, her seventh of the year.
“No feeling will describe what a home run is like, especially in a game like that,” Bowles said.
It was 4-0 heading to the bottom of the fourth until Marziale sent a solo home run over the makeshift outfield fence.
Alyssa Bowles hits a 2 run, 2 out homer and Bountiful goes up 4-0 in T4.— Patrick Carr (@patrickcarr_) May 23, 2018
Pitching change for Box Elder. Marziale out, Nyah DeRyke in pic.twitter.com/VEaWjh0j7c
The Bees chased Braves freshman pitcher Shambre Maestas out of the game in the fifth after hitting consecutive singles. Danner, Bountiful’s ace pitcher, came in to deal with the sticky situation and Purcell did the rest.
The sophomore shortstop ranged over to second base for a ground ball and pulled off an off-balance double play to end the inning and kill a Box Elder rally.
“It’s insane,” a visibly animated Purcell said about the game. “At the same time, that was freaky, but like, so good because our team needed that kind of game.”
Trailing 5-1 after Stoddard’s RBI single in the fifth, Nyah DeRyke homered for Box Elder before Mallory Merrill’s two-out, two-run double to left field cut the Braves’ lead to 5-4.
It was a just reward for Merrill, who had made two spectacular catches at third base on hard line drives earlier in the game to keep Bountiful in check.
Sophia Stoddard hits an RBI groundout. 2-0 Braves pic.twitter.com/hilqOo2XJg— Patrick Carr (@patrickcarr_) May 23, 2018
That’s when the tension ramped up. Was there a chance the pressure would be too high for a young team to deal with? Latey said probably. Bowles gave a resounding ‘no.’
For a moment, the Bees were one base away from sending the game to extra innings. But Purcell cleanly fielded Marziale’s ground ball and the throw was in time.
“If they come playing with that fight that they had in the last bit of that inning, we’ll make a good run tomorrow. It should be fun,” said Box Elder coach Taleas Marble, whose team plays West in the one-loss bracket at noon Thursday.
Speaking of time, maybe it’s Bountiful’s time to win a state title. Either way, the Braves are in the driver’s seat tomorrow no matter who they face.
“We want this more than ever and we’re gonna get it,” Bowles said.
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