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Gunnison softball wins five straight out of seven games last week

Ben Lasseter / Gazette Photo
As sophomore Lexee Keisel streaks for home plate, junior Kennedi Knudsen spiritedly cheers her teammate for driving runs in to break the game open.

After another week heavy with games, Gunnison Valley softball coach Tyson Brackett said his 10-6 team was still improving.

On Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday of last week, the Bulldogs beat 5A Salem Hills and regional opponents Millard and Wayne by scores of 13-6, 14-8 and 13-1, respectively. On the heels of the already long week, they won two and lost two in the Payson Varsity Ice Breaker tournament.

“I was hoping to go 7-0,” Coach Brackett said. “But I kind of thought we’d go 5-2.”

In the tournament Saturday, the Bulldogs won morning games against 4A Desert Hills and 3A San Juan, 12-8 and 16-3. They lost afternoon and evening games against Salem Hills and 3A North Sanpete.

“That night against North Sanpete, you just kind of run on fumes when you’ve played seven games” already in the week, Brackett said.

A game that set the tone for the Bulldogs last week was the first one against Salem Hills, which went back-and-forth until Gunnison Valley scored five runs in the bottom of the fourth inning, followed by four more in the fifth. Including a big hit to contribute to that fifth-inning rally, sophomore Lexee Keisel drove in five runs. She hit two home runs. 

All stats are according to MaxPreps.com.

Also against Salem Hills, sophomore JaKelle Sorenson had a double for three RBIs. Junior Kennedi Knudsen notched three hits and two RBIs and pitched five innings.

“After just one day of practice since spring break, our team came out and played awesome,” Brackett said.

Against Millard two days later, Keisel once again amped up her offense. She went 4-4 and again hit two home runs and drove in five runs.

Knudsen pitched again against Millard. She struck out eight and allowed six runs on nine hits and five walks.

Ben Lasseter // Gazette Photo
Sophomore Bentlee King takes a swing at a pitch during an at-bat that helped to spark a fifth-inning rally. She drove in two of the Bulldogs’ five runs in the inning.

All Bulldogs reached base against Wayne, and four players had multiple hits. Brackett said though he was happy with the 11 runs his team scored in the first two innings, he would have liked to see the players maintain the same level of offensive intensity later in the game. 

“The girls are learning,” he said. “I knew this year was going be tough because we have such a young team; but I keep telling them, they’re better than they think they are; they just have to believe in it.”

After starting at 9 a.m. Saturday morning, Knudsen, sophomore Bentlee King and junior Hadlee McDonald each had two hits. King hit a grand slam in the second inning that Knudsen followed immediately with another home run. 

Knudsen also pitched four innings and struck out four. Keisel closed out the fifth and final inning on the mound.

In one of the most dominant performances of the week, Knudsen struck out 12 batters from San Juan and only allowed three runs. On offense, Keisel went three for four with two doubles, a triple and five RBIs. Knudsen also had three hits, and King had two.

Against Salem Hills Saturday afternoon, the Bulldogs’ sixth game of the week and third of the day, Brackett said the game was defined by “one bad inning” in which “everything that could go bad, did.” It was the second inning, in which the Skyhawks scored 18 runs.

“Errors were contagious,” Brackett said. The team dropped six fly balls, and two others that were “catchable” fell after fielders “did not communicate,” all in the one inning.

The game ended after just one more half-inning, in which Gunnison Valley scored its fourth run of the game.

And they still had one left to play against North Sanpete at 7 p.m.

The Hawks wasted no time, piling on six runs in the first inning, which Gunnison Valley could only answer with one. After a few quiet innings in which only Gunnison Valley scored two runs, North Sanpete batted in four runs in both the fourth and fifth innings. The game and long week ended after the fifth inning.

Brackett said the week was good for the team’s confidence, despite the games when they could have prevailed better than they did.

“I want to improve each game,” he said. “That’s always our goal, and we want to take care of the little things.”

This week brings three away games for the Bulldogs on Tuesday at North Sevier, Thursday at North Summit and Friday at Piute. North Sevier and Piute are regional opponents.

The Bulldogs are second in Utah 2A rankings behind Duchesne.