Stansbury catcher Jocelyn Kaufmann may have had the first eruption of tears. Soon others followed. Before long, there was nary a dry eye on the Stallions’ side.
These were tears of joy, of satisfaction, of accomplishment.
Stansbury shook off an early disappointment against Spanish Fork in the 3A State Softball Championships to prevail in the winner-take-all game, claiming a 6-3 win Saturday at the Little Valley Fields against the Dons. It was the Stallions first state championship in any sport for the four-year-old high school.
Following the 9-3 setback in her team’s first game, Stansbury pitcher Kimbri Herring said the team refocused and didn’t allow the momentum Spanish Fork generated to continue.
“We just tuned ourselves back in,” Herring said. “We weren’t going to stop. We came all this way, we don’t want to quit now.
“I was really flustered the first game. I just had to calm down and know that my teammates are behind me.”
Spanish Fork scored three runs in the second inning off Herring and appeared resolute in claiming its third win of the day — the Dons knocked out five-time defending champion Bear River to reach the championship — until Stansbury’s Elise Sutherland strolled to the plate.
Sutherland went 0-for-3 against Spanish Fork in the first game, but ignited her team offensively in Game 2 when she belted a homer over the center-field fence against Dons pitcher Kaitlyn Bean. Stansbury had trailed 3-1 before Sutherland’s two-run shot tied it.
“The pitch was outside, a little up,” said Sutherland, the team’s No. 4 hitter. “It felt good.”
The speedy Janessa Bassett, a left-handed slap hitter generating buzz among college coaches, generated the go-ahead run by singling, stealing second, taking third on a throwing error by the catcher and scoring on a wild pitch.
In the fourth inning Stansbury added two more, capped off by Beth Chipman’s RBI single.
That was plenty for Herring to work with. Although not overpowering (nine hits allowed, five strikeouts), the sophomore danced out of trouble in the third and sixth, leaving a pair of runners on both times.
In the sixth, Herring faced Spanish Fork’s No. 3 hitter Dani Perkins with a pair of runners on base and two outs. Perkins, who made a pair of leaping catches at the wall — robbing at least one sure home run and possibly another — popped out to third, ending the threat.
Three outs later the Stallions got to celebrate making history for their school. It didn’t take long for the waterworks to get started.
“To get a chance to win a championship with these seniors is awesome,” said Herring while wiping her eyes. “It means everything.”