West Valley • McKenna Bull was feeling every pitch by the end of the day — her arm was burning after almost eight hours of trying to strike out batters.
Every ball, every strike, every pop-up and every ground ball had brought her an inch closer to her limit. And it was worth it.
Her eyes were burning more than her wrung-out pitching arm, welling with tears as she held the Class 5A softball trophy after she and her Weber teammates dispatched of Copper Hills in back-to-back games Thursday night at Valley Complex.
The Warriors nearly flew through the first game, a 9-3 rout. The second — an 8-6 nail-biter and Weber’s fifth contest in two days — took a little something extra to pull through.
“I had a few rough innings,” Bull acknowledged. “But I knew I had to keep going for my teammates. It pushed me through.”
The Grizzlies came close, rallying in the bottom of the sixth. With bases loaded, Emilee Sweet and Aubrie Webb hit back-to-back base hits to score two runs and cut Weber’s lead to 7-6.
Pitcher Shelby Abetya had a chance to tie or win facing bases loaded herself, but Bull struck her out swinging.
“We were a little frazzled when they scored on us,” shortstop Taylor Stroud said. “But we knew it was a game of hitting — we just kept trying to hit.”
That would be the closest Copper Hills would get, as Kennede Clarke scored in the top of the seventh to boost the lead. The Warriors knocked out the Grizzlies one-two-three to finish it, and although it wasn’t Bull’s finest game, seven strikeouts was a pretty fitting capstone to her season as the winningest pitcher in Class 5A.
It wasn’t simple, however. The second game in particular was a surging wave of momentum that swayed back and forth. The game had been tied in the second at three, then had been a one-run game until Nicole Weiss hit a three-run homer in the top of the fifth that would be the winning play.
Amanda Cook had power for the Grizzlies, knocking a solo shot in each of the games. But it didn’t quite measure up.
The Grizzlies couldn’t seem to find an answer defensively for the Warriors, who knocked back 21 combined hits in the two games. Copper Hills flip-flopped starters, in Game 1 going from Abetya to Kylie Burgess, then switching back to Abetya after Burgess walked in two runs in the first inning of Game 2.
Errors were also a problem: Six fielding errors in the first loss led the Grizzlies to make positional changes in the second, but they still had three more on the night.
It was a disappointing finish for Copper Hills in its first-ever appearance in the 5A championship, but the mental tug-of-war took its toll on both teams.
The Warriors just happened to be on top at the finish.
“It was tough to keep everyone up in the dugout,” coach Melinda Wade said. “It was our fifth game in two days, and we knew we couldn’t play perfect, so we just wanted to play tough.”
• Mckenna Bull pitches a pair of wins, her fifth in two days for the Warriors.
• Nicole Weiss’ three-run home run proves to be the difference in Game 2.
• Weber holds off a sixth-inning push by Copper Hills.