Spanish Fork • After every foul ball, fans on both sides of the ballpark let out an “Oh.”
With two runners on, two outs, and Box Elder leading Bountiful by a run, the Bees fans had gone past being on the edge of their seats and were standing, moving closer to the field with each out. The Braves fans were holding tight to the hope of a walk-off hit.
Contact they got, but Box Elder first baseman Brylee Marziale scooped up the hard ground ball down the line and stepped on her base.
“We’ve been here nine hours today, and I’ve got more energy, I could go nine more right now,” Box Elder coach Taleas Marble said after the game. “These girls are great. I’m so proud of them.”
Box Elder came out of the losers bracket to beat Bountiful twice in Thursday’s Class 5A softball championship, 12-7 and 5-4. The Bees claimed the state title over a team that had beaten them four times before Thursday.
Marble’s message to her team was, “They’ve been better than us this season, but we’re better today.”
So the Bees put out of their minds the three-run loss at Bountiful in March, the shutout in April, the eight runs they conceded to Bountiful earlier in the month, and even the 5-4 loss the day before.
“We’ve got nothing to lose,” said catcher Maycen O’Neal.
The championship culminated in a tense seventh inning. Box Elder had taken the lead for the third time, on an RBI single by O’Neal, but Bountiful had come back twice before.
Nyah DeRyke, who also hit two home runs on the day, stepped into the circle in the bottom of the seventh aiming for a complete-game victory. But she had to get through the heart of Bountiful batting order first. No. 3 hiter Dashani Purcell reached on an error, and after back-to-back outs, Alyssa Bowels singled to left.
Finally, DeRyke faced freshman Livi Arona, who had pegged a solo home run her previous at-bat to score the tying run in the sixth inning.
“Just keep the ball down and away, make her chase it,” said assistant coach Misty Craner of their approach to that at-bat. “Because she was hungry and we knew she would. So we just kept it down and away and let my pitcher handle it.”
DeRyke executed, but Arona battled back. After going down two strikes, Arona fought off three outside pitches to stay alive. The next pitch she poked fair, but right to leather.
Behind the plate, O’Neal never was worried.
“I know what Nyah can do,” she said after the game, her voice raspy from yelling.
The first game was similarly close up until the seventh inning. Box Elder entered the seventh down 6-5, but then broke out a seven-run rally. Mallory Merrill, Kyra Hardy, Reagan Marziale and Sydnie Blacker each drove in a run before DeRyke launched a three-run homer.