|Brandi Jensen and Tina Ward cheer the victory.|
Softball is a game of inches.
If the ball is an inch this way, Emery loses the game. If the ball is an inch the other way, Emery wins.
Fortunately, the ball was an inch the other way and the Lady Spartans defeated Canyon View High School 10-9 to advance to the state tournament this week at 6 p.m. in Spanish Fork.
Emery trailed 9-8 in the seventh and final inning and with two outs coach Tom Hansen went to ninth grader Whitney Erickson to pinch-hit. She ran the count full. With Canyon View a strike from victory, the ball was an inch the other way and Erickson earned a walk to keep the inning alive.
Tina Ward was the next batter for the Spartans. She also drew a walk and Emery had another chance.
Brandi Jensen, who had played a stellar game all day, was next to bat. She hit the ball softly to right field. The Canyon View player had a bead on the ball but it was just an inch the other way and it popped out of her mitt. The Spartans ran on contact and the error allowed both base runners to score.
In a matter of seconds the Spartans went from having their backs against the wall and being one strike from a loss to leading by a run in the final inning.
The game was then in the hands of the Spartan defense, which had been shaky all day. The eight Emery errors had allowed the Falcons to get the lead, but there were no errors for Emery in this inning.
The Falcons started with a walk, only pitcher Holly Bell's third of the day. A sacrifice bunt got the player to second, but a harmless pop fly was followed by a fly ball to the outfield. Brandi Jensen caught the ball and Emery started to celebrate. The Spartans had come back from an 8-4 deficit to win the battle of inches.
The Spartans got a good start, scoring three runs in the first inning. Brandi Jensen got a hit, stole second, and scored on a Falcon error to give Emery its first score. Bell helped her own cause when she hit a single to bring home Cortni Jensen and Stacie Giles and Emery led 3-0.
Emery added another score in the second when Ward singled and went all the way to third on Brandi Jensen's sacrifice bunt. She scored on a wild pitch and Emery led 4-0.
Canyon View came storming back, scoring three runs in the second inning and five in the third. Most of those runs came because of five Spartan errors in the two innings.
Two of Emery's starters were unable to play in the game due to health and personal reasons and their less experienced substitutes struggled in the early innings.
Emery began to claw its way back in the fourth inning. Brandi Jensen and Mackellee Huntington scored when Cortni Jensen doubled and Emery had closed the gap to 8-6.
Canyon View scored another run in the fifth inning to push their lead to 9-6.
Emery scored two more runs in the sixth inning. Some Falcon errors and a wild pitch allowed Brandi Jensen and Huntington to score again. Emery trailed 9-8 and became poised for their last-inning heroics.
The Spartans move on to face Judge Memorial in the quarterfinals. The Bulldogs are a tough team. They won their first tournament game 12-0. They have one of the best pitchers in the state who struck out 14-of-16 players in their win.
But as the Spartans have proved, anything can happen when the ball is just an inch the other way.