Spanish Fork • Taylor Fox wasn’t trying to make the ultimate play. She simply wanted to get on base.
Over four years, Bear River High coach Calvin Bingham’s driven home that line of thinking. Make the right play, and the big plays will come. On Saturday afternoon in a sun-baked Class 4A softball state title matchup, trying to make the right play turned into the biggest of plays for Bear River.
The Bears rallied for a 5-4 win over Spanish Fork by scoring three runs in the bottom of the seventh inning in what turned out to be a thriller. Fox, simply trying to make contact, hit the game-tying two-run homer, a shot over the center-field fence.
“I wasn’t trying to hit a home run,” Fox said. “Honestly, I was just trying to get a solid hit, because I knew we needed base-runners. I knew if we just got runners on, that would be the way to start a rally, not a homer.”
As Fox rounded the bases, her Bear River teammates and her coaches were happy things didn’t go as planned. Before Fox’s homer, the Bears had been flummoxed for the most part by Dons ace Jordin Bate, who used a rising fastball and and sharp off-speed stuff to keep a potent Bear River lineup guessing through most of the afternoon.
The Bears got off to a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning on a homer from Kapri Toone. Then, Bate shut Bear River down into the bottom of the seventh. The Bears were forced to show resiliency on Saturday afternoon. In the bottom of the third inning, a would-be inside-the-park home run went out of play, and was correctly deemed a ground-rule double, which took two Bear River runs off the board.
Armed with new life, Spanish Fork scored four consecutive runs after the bottom of the first, and entered the seventh inning with a 4-2 advantage. A second and deciding game — the Dons rose to the title game from the one loss bracket — seemed inevitable. Bate seemed to be getting stronger by the inning, her pitching frustrating the Bear River offense.
“I knew it would be a real battle,” Bingham said. “Spanish Fork has an outstanding team, and I knew they had beaten up on everybody this year. They even beat up on us early in the year. So, I knew this was going to be really tough, but I also knew we had come into our own in the past few weeks. We had gotten our lineup the way we wanted. So I knew we would have a chance.”
Toone, who got the win, followed Fox’s homer with a double in the left-field gap. Toone credited Fox for a surge of energy in the bottom of the seventh. Before her homer, Toone said there was a bit of a fatigue factor in the Bears dugout, perhaps from having so many chances at getting to Bate and coming up short.
Freshman outfielder Ashley Mickelson came on to run for Toone and advanced to third base on a wild pitch. Sophomore Oaklee Trapp made the play that won Bear River a title, legging out a groundball for a single that brought Mickelson home, providing the final score.
The Bears promptly mobbed Trapp at first base seconds after she was ruled safe. And a school that moved up a classification for this season earned the ultimate prize.