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TAYLORSVILLE — Owning the circle would be a drastic understatement if asked to describe the performance of Bingham's star pitcher Tori Almond.
The reigning 5A MVP made a strong case for garnishing the award again — throwing 20 straight scoreless innings, including 11 straight hitless innings. Almond helped propel the Miners into the title game against Roy with a perfect game — striking out 18-of-21 batters — against Fremont in the one-loss bracket. She then followed suit with a 6-0 shutout win against the Royals to force an if-necessary game.
In the do-or-die matchup, Almond tossed six hitless innings, giving up two hits and striking out 10 batters.
Almond (20-3) completed her high school career with a full-count strikeout to give Bingham (23-5) its third straight 5A softball championship with a thrilling 2-1 win against Roy (26-3) on Thursday at the Valley Complex Center.
"These seniors have felt so much pressure all year long — this is just a huge jubilant relief," said Bingham coach Mikki Jackson. "I don't even know how to describe it actually, it's incredible."
The Miners continued the growing trend of the program. For three straight years, Bingham has migrated through the consolation bracket to ultimately capture the crown.
"This just shows the courage (they have)," Jackson said. "These guys had to struggle all year long with confidence. Being a top team has a lot of pressures that go with it, and getting them to believe how good they were was surprisingly a big challenge. I think until today, and the challenges that they faced, they couldn't see just how good they were."
In what was supposed to be a duel between the state's top two pitchers, it turned out to be exactly that. However, it wasn't between the two intended starters.
Roy junior pitcher Macauley Flint, who came into the championship game sporting a 23-0 record, was sidelined for the second game due to an injury sustained to her pitching thumb in the sixth inning of the first game against Bingham.
She swung on a first-pitch fastball, which clipped her thumb — causing a blister on her pitching hand. She wouldn't return to action until the seventh inning in the second game as a pinch-runner.
Filling her rather large shoes was Jamie Aiken, the team's usual third baseman. Aiken entered the pitching circle with a 3-1 record.
She tossed five scoreless innings to keep the game well within striking distance for the powerful Royals. It wouldn't be until the 20th batter she faced that Bingham would strike first blood.
After Whitney Littledyke had singled to begin the inning, Bingham's Whitney Lewis cracked an RBI single to right field to make the score to 1-0 at the end of the fifth inning.
In the bottom of the sixth with two outs, Littledyke delivered once again. She roped a grounder to shortstop that came in hot and ultimately forced a fielding error, bringing home Lauren Johanson in the process to make it 2-0.
In the seventh inning, after Jessyca Fulmer's RBI single cut the gap to 2-1, Roy's Aiken got ahold of a fastball and sent it sailing to the warning track, inches away from a potential game-winning homer, but it came up just short. The ensuing batter, Bryce Mitchell, battled with Almond until striking out swinging on a changeup.