TAYLORSVILLE — With “JO” sketched on her wrist in black marker, Bountiful's Alyssa Bowles stepped into the batter's box. She swung and drilled the ball over the fence for her second home run of the day
Bowles hit those two long balls to help her team to an 11-1 win over Roy Wednesday in the 5A softball semifinals at Valley Field Complex. But she also hit them for someone else.
Bountiful student Jovanni Lozano-Sayama passed away last week, and Bowles and the rest of the Braves are playing for his memory.
“Those ones were for him,” said Bowles. “He was one of my good friends. We got Miami Dolphins on our helmets, that was his favorite football team, and ‘JO’ on our wrists. Those ones were for him. This game — this whole tournament — is for him.”
The team is playing with heavy hearts, but they have used those to find extra strength.
Bountiful jumped out to an 8-0 lead through three innings with the help of some ill-timed Roy errors, but also some big-time hits.
In the third, Livi Arona and Bowles hit back-to-back homers to completely blow the game open. After that, it seemed the only question remaining was when, not if, the Braves would win the game. The answer: the sixth. Abby Steed hit an RBI single in the bottom of the inning to end the contest early.
It put an end to a near-perfect day for Bountiful. And one that proved to worth waiting for.
On three different occasions last week, the Bountiful girls hopped on a bus and drove to Taylorsville eagerly anticipating playing state tournament games. Each time, they returned home disappointed as rain poured down in Salt Lake Valley.
“It was really hard to have motivated practices and productive practices,” Bowles said. “It was really hard but we pulled it off.”
It was because of what they showed in those practices that Bountiful coach Butch Latey isn’t surprised by what happened on Wednesday.
“What’s crazy is they hit the living crap out of the ball every day in the gym,” Latey said. “I said, ‘Well, if this translates out here, we’ll go for it.' And it did.”
Bountiful had nine hits against Roy. Braves pitcher Corinne Salazar scattered five hits through six innings, allowing just the one run. And really, they were just excited to play softball again.
“We were thrilled to see the clear blue skies,” Bowles said.
They were blue for a time, at least. The tournament did have to deal with a lightning delay plus some rain, but the Braves returned home after winning two games. Bountiful beat Farmington 5-2 before smashing Roy.
And they’ll get to come back on Thursday one win away from claiming the state championship. Bountiful will play the winner of Thursday morning’s Roy-West matchup for the state title at 2 p.m. at Valley Complex.
Bowles and her team will have “JO” written on their wrists then, too.
“They’ve really picked me up; I was really close to him,” Bowles said of her teammates. “(It) helped me to know that we worry about off the field and we just ball out right here as a team.”