4A softball: Diving catch snags repeat for the Royals
After Roy senior pitcher Jamie Aiken quickly retired the first two batters in the top of the seventh inning, Salem Hills' senior lead-off hitter Jerika Durfey sent a sinking line drive into shallow right field.
The Royals' sophomore right fielder Brittnee Higgs darted toward the ball, laid out and snagged it to give Roy a 5-2 win in the 4A state championship game.
"I was hoping the ball would come to me," Higgs said. "I thought I might not have a chance to get to it, but since it was the last out, I wanted to go all out."
That catch gave Roy its second straight state championship. The Royals were expected to win it all last year with pitcher MaCauley Flint at the helm. This year, though, Roy surprised everyone.
"Last year, if we wouldn't have won it all, it would have been a major disappointment," Roy coach Mandy Koford said. "What made this one so sweet and so fun is that we weren't expected to do it."
Koford's club won the title last season with dominant pitching. This time around, the Royals relied on the long ball. In Thursday's championship game, it was senior third baseman Bryce Mitchell who delivered the big blow for Roy.
Mitchell got her chance to shine in the bottom of the third inning. With runners on second and third, Mitchell blasted a high fastball so far over the fence in left-center that the Salem Hills outfielders didn't even give chase they just watched. The three-run homer gave Roy a 4-2 lead.
Junior shortstop Jordynn Barrera doubled down the left field line later in the inning to make it 5-2, and that three-run cushion was plenty for Aiken, who did not allow a run in the final five innings of the game. Aiken finished with a record of 18-2 in her senior season.
"For us seniors, we really wanted to leave a legacy on the field, and be legends of softball," Aiken said.
At least in the halls of Roy High School, they did so.
Storylines Second-time success
R Roy won its second straight state title by knocking off Salem Hills 5-2 in the 4A state championship game.
• Senior third baseman Bryce Mitchell belted a three-run home run for Roy.
• Roy junior shortstop Jordynn Barrera had two doubles and an RBI for the Royals.