SPANISH FORK—The Lady Bulldogs didn’t go down without a fight, slugging to the finish in a playoff run cut short.
Gunnison Valley softball finished their season going down swinging, falling in the fourth round of the one-loss bracket in the 2A softball state championship tournament.
After falling short against Parowan in the second round of the winner’s bracket, 10-5, Gunnison went on a hitting spree, bulldozing North Sevier, 17-2, and Kanab, 14-4, last Thursday. The Lady Bulldogs continued to hit well on Friday but couldn’t find any answer to stop Beaver’s offense as they fell to the Beavers, 22-12, in whatever one might call the opposite of a pitching battle.
“Our team has had a lot of success offensively throughout our entire season,” coach Sara Ellsworth said. “Off-season workouts and weightlifting will help the girls continue to improve for the upcoming season.”
Gunnison’s greatest strength all year has been their ability to hit the ball deep, so Parowan’s strategy was simple: leave no opportunity. The Rams’ pitcher gave Gunnison 10 walks, effectively neutralizing the Lady Bulldogs’ ability to string big hits together. Meanwhile, Parowan hit effectively and consistently through the game, leading 10-2 going into the bottom of the seventh inning.
Parowan’s avoidance strategy was not repeated by North Sevier, and Gunnison fully took advantage, ending the game in a rout in three innings. They scored 15 of their runs in the second and third innings. Seniors Raven Pickett and Kennedi Knudsen and sophomore Maggie Bartholomew each hit a home run as Knudsen led with six RBI. The Lady Bulldogs combined for 17 hits.
Against Kanab, it was more of the same, another offensive fireshow, including three home runs, this time off the bats of Pickett, Bartholomew and freshman Maile Ha’o. Ha’o’s home run was her 10th of the season, the 14th-best mark in the whole state and leading all of 2A as a freshman.
“Ha’o has been an incredible asset to our team,” Ellsworth said. “She adds power and consistency to every atbat, and is a great leader on defense. I’m excited to see her, along with the other underclassmen, as they grow and take on more responsibility in years to come.”
Gunnison finally faced up to their competition in No. 3 Beaver. While Pickett and Knudsen each scored home runs, it was Beaver’s bats that were hotter than all. The opposing team had 13 total hits and ran away from Gunnison at the top of the fourth inning with nine runs. Pickett led with three RBI.
All in all, Gunnison finished the season strong. They also accounted for 25 home runs as a team. Ha’o, Pickett and Knudsen comprised three of the top four home run hitters in 2A, while Ha’o was the runaway leader in the classification in total RBI with 57, one short of tying the highest mark in the whole state.
The Lady Bulldogs graduate three seniors from their 2022 squad: Knudsen, Pickett and Hadlee McDonald.
“What a difference three individuals can make to a team,” Ellsworth said. “Knudsen, Pickett and McDonald have brought excitement, love and hard work to our team. We are going to miss them tremendously, but I am so grateful for the impact they have had on this program. The three seniors were our captains this year and stepped up to the challenge. They were the bridge between the coaches and the team, and each one of them did their job both on and off the field. Their legacy will be remembered for years to come.”