6A softball: Riverton battles back twice to win 3rd title in 4 years

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PROVO — After combining for 20 runs on 20 hits in a Game 2 slugfest, Friday's winner-take-all finale of the 6A softball championship series was a pitchers' duel.

Until suddenly, it wasn't.

Braylee Shields went 2-for-3 with a three-run home run during a five-run fifth inning as Riverton pulled away from region rival Bingham 12-3 in the third game of the 6A championship Friday night at BYU's Gail Miller Field.

"I feel like that was the (inning) that got us going," said Shields, who hit a no-doubter with the final swing of her senior season. "I'm just so proud. I have no words."

Brooke Tacke went 2-for-3 with a double and three RBI for Riverton (27-5), who won the hard way by beating the defending champion Miners twice in one day after Bingham's win Thursday evening.

"This team never gives up," Shields said. "From the very beginning, we've never given up. We've pushed through every single inning as a team, and we have each others' backs."

It's the third title in four years for the Silverwolves, but the first for head coach Whitley Haimin since taking over for former coach Katelyn Elliott Jenson.

Not that she took any of the credit from a roster led by six seniors.

"These are phenomenal kids," she said. "They're such good humans; obviously they're pretty badass softball players, but also phenomenal students and athletes. Just great humans. They do well in the classroom, and they're good, genuine people. I'm proud of them for working their butts off since day one when I came in and they told me what they wanted to do."

After Riverton out-slugged the Miners 15-5 with 15 hits to even the championship series, the Silverwolves brought their gloves to a stick fight in Game 3, when both teams combined for just four hits through the first four innings.

But Riverton's Peyton Sanchez stroked a two-out double to the center-field fence in the top of the fifth before the Silverwolves loaded the bases and Camryn O'Farrell drove in two runs with a single to short right that she stretched into a second on a throwing error.

"Peyton Sanchez carried us all year long," Haimin said of her sophomore pitcher who earned the win allowing three hits with four strikeouts and a walk in 6.1 innings. "She continued to work every single day, and I feel like she got better throughout the season. Her and Brooke Tacke worked so well together … and she helped Peyt have that confidence, as well as a phenomenal offense and a great defense."

On the next at-bat, Shields fired a no-doubt home run over center field — the first in the Big 12 ballpark through both 5A and 6A championship series — for a three-run shot that propelled Riverton to a 5-0 advantage.

An offense that never struggled in the second game but was stagnating in the third had new life.

"I feel like we had a choice to grab the momentum, and as a whole, we took that and never gave up," Shields said. "We just kept picking away and plugging into each other."

Brenna Cowley pulled one back for Bingham (23-6) with a two-out RBI triple in the bottom of the inning, then came home on Brooklyn Fogg's gap single. But Riverton scored seven runs down the stretch, and Sanchez kept the Miners off the board the rest of the way to lock down the title.

The win is the third state title in four years for Riverton, but the first under Haimin.

It's also the fourth straight championship for Region 2 when combined with Bingham's championship run last year — and sixth consecutive for a team from Region 2 since Herriman's first championship in 2018 (notwithstanding the canceled 2020 tournament due to the COVID-19 pandemic).

Haimin knows well the value of the South Jordan/Herriman/Riverton area in softball, and the tradition of the Silverwolves. It's her alma mater, after all — as well as that of her entire coaching staff.

"I think we had one of the hardest schedules in 6A, and that's what prepared us for today and this whole last couple of weeks," Haimin said. "We've been in the clench, in tight situations, playing phenomenal teams in our region. I think it works to our advantage. It's cool to have a whole coaching staff of alumni; our pack runs deep. We have so many people who have played a part of our program."

Riverton Silverwolves right fielder Braylee Shields (8) slides into home as Bingham Miners' Rian Howland (21) looks to take her out during the 6A softball state championship at the Miller Park Complex in Provo, on Friday, May 24, 2024.
Riverton Silverwolves right fielder Braylee Shields (8) slides into home as Bingham Miners' Rian Howland (21) looks to take her out during the 6A softball state championship at the Miller Park Complex in Provo, on Friday, May 24, 2024. (Photo: Marielle Scott, Deseret News)

Game 2: Sanchez's bat helps Silverwolves outslug Miners

Sanchez belted a two-run double, and Riverton pounded out 15 hits to overwhelm Bingham 16-5 in five innings to force a winner-take-all third game.

Riverton scored five runs in the first two innings, including Braylee Shields' two-run double down the left-field line during a three-run second en route to the Silverwolves' 5-1 lead early.

Gracelyn Lemke nearly pulled back the deficit with one swing of the bat, a three-run triple to the right-field wall during a four-run third that left the two region rivals tied.

O'Farrell, Jaydan Bushman and Lily Heitz each had an RBI double during a four-run fourth to take a commanding 9-5 lead with three frames to go before the Silverwolves closed the door with a seven-run fifth.


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