He told sophomore pitcher Ashlyn Wadsworth not to worry about it, shake it off, just face the next batter and throw strikes. “We talked strategy, how many outs, knowing who was on base and where.”
What he didn’t tell her was the next batter was sophomore Keegan Laughlin, the Leopards best hitter. The outfielders moved closer to the fences. She had flied out to left field in her two previous times at bat.
With the high drama of the situation, two out, two on, a 3-2 lead for Alamo, Wadsworth calmly struck out Laughlin on three pitches to win the fourth straight state championship for the Lady Panthers (27-8). “I don’t focus on who the batter is,” she said, “When I get on the mound, I just think, me and the glove. If I take notice of the batter, I lose focus.”
The championship ties PVHS with four other schools in the state for the most consecutive state softball titles.
Alamo had beaten Wells in the title game last year, rolling through a three-game tourney sweep.
But this year it was a tougher. Tied 2-2 after one inning in the first game of the tournament with Eureka, the Lady Panthers erupted for eight runs in the second inning and a 10-2 score which held up as the final. They ended the game with 13 hits. Wadsworth threw a one-hitter with four strikeouts. And the Panthers took advantage of nine Vandal errors. Madison Harris had a double and two RBIs. Annette Hayward had Eureka’s lone hit.
Alamo faced Wells, a 10-8 winner over Indian Springs, in the winner’s semifinals on Friday. And here, the Leopards capitalized on Pahranagat errors to stay with the Panthers 5-5 after three innings, and used another error to take a 6-5 lead, eventually winning 7-5.
That moved the Panthers into an elimination game Friday evening, with Eureka again.
Tension was high with uneasy concern as the Vandals touched Wadsworth for five runs on six hits the first inning.
But in the third inning, the Lady Panthers began to hit fireball pitcher C.C. Brown and erupted for nine runs on 10 hits for a 10-5 lead. “This group doesn’t get down,” Sparrow said, “They just knuckle down. You never know when things start going your way.”
Karley Whipple led off the inning with a single and after her, 13 other batters came to the plate. Kaitlyn Davis hit a two-run single to tie the game, and Alyson Egbert had an RBI single that was the start of a six hit two-out rally.
Wadsworth did not allow the Vandals (20-7) another hit the rest of the game. She stuck out six and walked two to eliminate Eureka 12-5.
The championship with Wells would mean PVHS would have to beat the Leopards twice for the title.
The team got two good pitching efforts from Wadsworth that day. She tossed a five-hitter in the critical first game, striking out four and walking only one as the Alamo girls took a 15-3 win to force a deciding game. Harris was 2-for-5 with a double and RBI, and Madalyn Taylor was 3-for-4 with an RBI.
In the final game Sparrow again relied on Wadsworth and she came through with another five-hitter, five strikeouts and one walk.
“She was keeping them off balance with her off-speed stuff and hitting her spots,” he said. “She threw a few screwballs to come inside. They (Wells) hit a lot of foul balls. She doesn’t throwing very hard, but does hit her spots. That’s the kind of pitching we need against a team like Wells.”
Locked in a 2-2 game in the sixth inning, Rachel Bunker got the go-ahead run on an RBI single from Whipple. Bunker had singled to left field and moved to third base on a sacrifice bunt by Allyse Frehner.
Then came the seventh inning two out, two on dramatics with the Leopards (23-8-1). Kailyn Del Rio pitched a fine game herself, allowing three runs, four strikeouts and only two walks. Del Rio and Sam Shamblin had the two RBIs for Wells.