Spanish Fork • It isn’t often that a team can incur double-digit losses in the regular season, rebound and go unbeaten through the playoffs on its way to a Class 6A softball title.
Herriman has proven to be one of the exceptions.
The story of its season will tell a tale of resilience. And that resilience played itself out in Thursday afternoon’s 6-5 eight-inning win over Syracuse in the championship game.
Herriman was down to its final three outs in the bottom of the seventh inning. Then, the Mustangs received a solo blast from Libby Parkinson to force an extra frame. The Titans put runners on first and second base with nobody out in the top of the eighth. But Parkinson — exhausted from pitching all week — got out of the jam, with a big assist from left fielder Krystal Kemp, who threw out a Syracuse runner trying to score from third base on a sacrifice fly.
And, finally, Cassidy Adams’ infield single scored the winning run in the bottom of the eighth inning. It allowed the Herriman dugout to empty and celebrate a state championship that didn’t look possible a month ago.
“The whole season, we’ve all had confidence in each other that we could get it done,” Parkinson said. “It was hard giving up two runs in the top of the seventh, but we stayed confident in each other, and we were able to come back and rally.”
The rally proved to be the impressive part for the Mustangs. Herriman had control for much of the game. A two-run homer from Lexi Slade — in her first start of the season — in the bottom of the third inning supplied the Mustangs with a 4-1 lead. Parkinson felt strong in the circle, a combination of hard sliders and off-speed stuff keeping Syracuse batters flustered.
But the Titans never faltered. They put together long and fruitful at-bats. They legged out base hits. They were aggressive and forceful on the basepaths, and eventually that turned into runs.
Their patience at the plate proved bothersome to Parkinson, who eventually hit successive batters with the bases loaded to allow the two runs in the top of the seventh inning.
But while the Titans turned a 4-3 deficit into a 5-4 lead, they didn’t break the inning open with a long rally. That proved to be key. With the bases loaded and nobody out, the damage in that inning could’ve and perhaps should’ve been worse for the Mustangs. Because the Titans pushed two runs across, the Mustangs breathed a sigh of relief, knowing they had a good chance to tie the game.
True to that, Parkinson took the first pitch from Syracuse hurler Ashtyn Bauerle and drove it over the fence in center field in the bottom of the seventh.
“Libby has been stepping up for us all season,” Herriman coach Heidi McKissick said. “It was huge that she got out of the jam in the top of the eighth inning. We had full confidence in her and her ability.”
The Mustangs felt a sense of urgency on Thursday afternoon. They rose to the championship game through the winners bracket. But they were loathe to lose the first game to the Titans, forcing an if game.
For one thing, Parkinson was exhausted. McKissic said she would’ve thrown Kemp in a second game, but Herriman didn’t want to leave anything to chance. Secondly, a loss would’ve given the Titans significant momentum. And it could’ve been damaging for the Mustangs, who were forced to rally three times tied or trailing.
“We’ve been doubled before this season and it isn’t a good feeling,” Parkinson said. “So we definitely wanted to try and get it over with if we could.”
Ultimately, Herriman’s slow start this season proved helpful when it counted. They’ve trailed before. They’ve been blown out before. They’ve felt uneasy before. But they’ve responded every time.
Thursday afternoon proved no different. Now, Herriman no longer has to respond. The Mustangs are state champions.