Taylorsville • Ever hesitant, Brooklyn Willes took a tenuous step towards the infield. Then she retreated to her right and toward the outfield fence, knowing the ball was hit harder than she first thought.
Lehi’s senior left fielder chased down the line drive that could either win her team the Class 5A state softball title, or very likely cause a second and deciding game should she miss the catch.
Lehi 5, Taylorsville 4Lehi wins its first state softball championship since 1996.
» Lehi senior Brooklyn Willes makes the game-saving catch in the top of the seventh.
She dived. She clutched the ball and rolled over. She didn’t need validation that she made the grab of the tournament. Her celebratory teammates hugging each other at the mound told her all she needed to know.
"It’s a great way to go out," Willes said.
Simply put, she saved the day, and supplied Lehi with a 5-4 win over Taylorsville and the first state title for the Pioneers program since 1996. Personally, it was a moment of vindication for Willes. She struggled all season with her hitting and was playing defense only in the title game. But never pouting and putting her team first, she made a bigger impact than anyone could imagine.
"I just tried to work as hard as a I can and do my job," Willes said. "I can’t tell you how much this state title means to the school. It’s been a long time coming."
The win caps what was a dominant run for the Pioneers. Lehi faced five teams in the postseason and won them all.
Thursday’s victory over the Warriors was its second in a week, as the Pioneers defeated Taylorsville on the road in the second round.
This time around, it wasn’t nearly that easy. The Warriors jumped to a 3-1 lead and dominated the early part of the game. Lehi sophomore pitcher Sydney White was clearly tired and didn’t have her best stuff. She struggled through the complete game, but dug deep when it mattered.
Finally in the fifth inning, the Pioneers’ offense woke up, scoring four runs and taking a 5-3 advantage. Yes, Lehi needed a little help, as two critical errors by Taylorsville led to the rally. But Terra Tahbo — clutch all tournament — came through with what proved to be the game-winning hit, a single that scored a pair of runs and gave the Pioneers a lead they would never relinquish.
"We knew that if we kept calm and kept getting good at-bats that we would eventually break through," Lehi coach Whitney Thomas said.
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