Templars beat back obstacles to take second in 3A softball

Photo courtesy Kenneth Kirkham
Lady Templar softball team takes second place at state. The players are shown here with their trophy.

SPANISH FORK—So many times, the dream appeared out of reach, but the Lady Templars were not going quietly.

Then, on a Saturday afternoon at nearly 5 p.m., luck finally ran out.

The Manti High softball team fought to their last breath in 3A state championship game last Saturday but fell to Grantsville, 6-5, at the Spanish Fork Sports Park.

The No. 1-seeded Templars claimed second place in 3A while the No. 3-seeded Cowboys repeated as state champs.

“They did the best they could under some of the circumstances they had,” Coach Susan Hatch said. “We had sick kids, broken hands, broken thumbs, and they played through as best as they could. They came fighting.”

Leading up to the final game, Manti fought their way out of the loser’s bracket with a spectacular 8-7 win over Carbon in a game that went nine innings and pushed the title game back by an hour.

“Fatigue eventually sets in when you’ve played that long,” Hatch said. “It was an emotional game this morning; our shortstop was sick all morning; things took a toll on us.”

The day before, the Templars, still at the top of the winners’ bracket, prevailed over Grand County, 12-2 in the quarterfinals. Later that Friday afternoon, their 14-game winning streak was halted by none other than the Cowboys.

Dating back to April of 2019, Manti has only lost five games, regular season and postseason combined, against 3A teams. The losses have something in common: All were to Grantsville.

“Let’s be honest, that’s the Goliath of softball in 3A right now,” Grantsville Coach Tony Cloward said of Manti. “They’re the measuring stick for the rest of us, so for us to beat them twice is outstanding. It’s a miracle. It doesn’t make sense on paper…I’m very impressed with their coaching and their players.”

The Templars didn’t struggle much with Grand County as they ended that game on the 10-run rule after six inning. Grand was down 4-1 until the bottom of the fifth, when Manti rattled off five runs to burst the game open. Six different players scored at least one RBI.

Grantsville’s defense might as well have been labeled the “anti-Manti” defense, as the Cowboys’ 3-1 victory to knock the Templars into the one-loss bracket was a fairly different look than their offensive performances in the early rounds. The Templars only got two hits off Grantsville’s pitcher.

In the first game on Saturday, Manti took on Carbon, perhaps the most dangerous opponent they could have been dealt. Back in March, the Dinos were a half-inning away from a win over Manti before the Templars made a huge comeback to win, 9-8.

Manti struck first at the bottom of the fourth inning as sophomore Madison Scottorn reached first on an error, while senior Katie Larsen ran home to give her team a 1-0 lead. The next inning, Larsen did what she has done all season and boomed her 17th home run of the season over left field for a 2-0 lead.

Carbon responded at the top of the sixth with a pair of runs, propelled by aggressive base running between pitches.

After three quick outs to end the inning, Carbon returned to the plate, and the Dinos’ star hitter, Lindsey Madrigal, cracked a home run over the left field fence to score two and put the pressure on the Templars.

 After seniors Larsen and Kassidy Alder managed to get on base, Junior Ashley Rasmussen delivered the miracle hit with a double to left field that scored both seniors and sent the game to extra innings.

With courtesy runners starting at second base, Carbon scored in the top of the eighth on an error at first, but Manti answered back at the bottom of the inning with junior Adalee Olson scoring an RBI.

At the top of the ninth inning, which started around the time the title game was originally scheduled, a couple of great hits, combined with an error by Manti, scored two runs for Carbon and forced the Templars to fight for it all.

Manti responded first with Larsen scoring the courtesy runner on a single. Rasmussen hit a single to load the bases. Then, after a long morning of pitching nine innings, junior Tiffany Hermansen came up huge, hitting a walk-off double to right field to score Larsen and senior Sadie Cox and win the game.

After all of a 20-minute break and a quick opening ceremony, Manti got back on the field, ready to face Grantsville all over again; but Larsen said it wasn’t anything she and the team weren’t ready to do.

“It gave us a lotta energy, a lotta hype to keep us going and thinking that we can do it,” Larsen said.

Manti had a stellar start. They loaded the bases, followed by sophomore Haylee Daniels hitting a single to score two RBIs. Then, Scottorn got the Templars another run with a single, helped by a Grantsville error, to give the Templars a 3-0 lead.

At the top of the second, Hermansen started to feel the wear of 11 straight innings in a single day. She delivered a wild pitch behind the batter, allowing Grantsville to score one run while junior catcher Hadden Taylor scrambled to recover the ball.

At the top of the fourth inning, Grantsville made their comeback, capitalizing on an error, then a double down center field, before Rasmussen, filling in for Hermansen after the second inning, got her first strikeout.

Manti looked to respond at the bottom of the fourth with Crouch and Alder both getting base hits, but Cox’s hit turned into a line out by the Grantsville shortstop, who stepped on second then fired it to first for a jaw-dropping triple play.

Grantsville’s momentum carried into the top of the fifth inning. After Rasmussen delivered her second strikeout, she suddenly let loose two wild pitches behind the batter before just managing to get a third strikeout.

After Grantsville hit a single to score one and take the lead, 4-3, Hatch switched back to Hermansen as pitcher. Suddenly, the Cowboys caught fire, hitting three straight singles to go up, 6-3.

Manti answered back at the bottom of the fifth with an RBI from Hermansen, but the Templars needed more. Clamping down on defense for quick outs, Manti got another RBI from Cox on a sacrifice fly to make it 6-5.

At the top of the seventh inning, Grantsville threatened to pull away with a runner on third, but the Templars’ outfield caught a fly ball for the third out, putting it all on the line for the offense.

Daniels started the bottom of the seventh by reaching first on an error to get Manti a fighting chance. Then, Hermansen struck out. Olson struck out right after that.

With two outs and Daniels on second, Scottorn, the young sophomore batter, went up against a senior pitcher with seven strikeouts on the game for the biggest at bat of the year.

She later recounted that before she went to the plate, Hatch told her, “Just hit the ball.”

Scotttorn quickly got to a count of two strikes, and began to swing at every pitch to stay alive. After five straight foul balls, Scottorn connected for a ground ball heading towards first base and ran for her life, but she couldn’t get there fast enough. Grantsville touched the base to seal its fourth straight championship.

Daniels led the Templars in the final game with two RBIs, while Cox and Hermansen each had one. The Manti defense faced absolutely everything it handle as the Cowboys scored six runs on 16 hits. Manti had eight hits.