MANTI—Katie Larsen can celebrate a Sweet Sixteen.
The Manti senior is at least a year past the birthday version, but against a top-5 team on the road, she smacked her 16th home run of the year over the fence to help Manti softball take down Grand County in a late-season non-region matchup last Saturday, 6-2.
Manti went 4-0 last week, improving their 3A-leading record to 23-2 overall, as they shut out three straight opponents prior to the win against Grand, beating Delta, 15-0, then a 6A squad in Taylorsville, 10-0, and American Leadership Academy, 17-0.
Including last week’s 10-0 win over Union, Manti shut out four straight opponents, a feat not achieved by the Lady Templars since they did it in the playoffs in 2009.
The win over ALA was their eighth shutout of the season. Manti’s 25 games played are the second-most of any 3A team this year (Richfield has played 26), and they are the only team to have allowed less than 50 runs total for the season.
The win over Grand was perhaps the most important win of the season for Manti. The Lady Templars handed the Red Devils only their fifth loss as they stood at 17-5 overall, keeping Manti’s record against 3A spotless despite having only played six games against teams with a winning record.
Larsen hit both her 15th and 16th home runs last week, the former going against Taylorsville. Larsen’s 16 home runs are the most in all of Utah. She is also third in the state for total RBIs with 53.
Junior pitcher Tiffany Hermansen improved to 14-2 at the mound and eclipsed 140 strikeouts for the season with her six strikeouts against Grand. “Pitchers can perform their best when they have a strong defense backing them up,” Coach Susan Hatch said.
With RPI rankings waiting to be showcased in the coming week, Manti’s hold on the No. 1 seed looks nearly definite. Manti was scheduled to play against 6A American Fork after press time last Monday.
“In order to do well in each game we play, we need to be solid through our entire line up,” Hatch said. “The great thing about this team is that the players help each other—when one is down, the others are filling in and lifting the others up.”