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State softball: Bear River rallies for 2 wins, beats Ridgeline in 4A championship series

BR coach Calvin Bingham retires with 11 softball state titles

By Patrick Carr - Prep Sports Reporter | May 20, 2023
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Bear River High's softball team celebrates after winning the 4A state championship against Ridgeline at BYU on Saturday, May 20, 2023.
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Bear River softball pitcher Kate Dahle throws a pitch during the 4A softball state championship series against Ridgeline at BYU on Saturday, May 20, 2023.
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Bear River's Kaya Towne slides into third base during the 4A softball state championship series against Ridgeline at BYU on Saturday, May 20, 2023.

PROVO — Two years ago, Bear River High’s softball team faced a similar predicament: being down 1-0 in the best-of-three game 4A state championship series.

But the Bears rallied to beat Tooele twice that day and win the 4A title.

Saturday at BYU, they faced the same situation: down 1-0 in the 4A championship series against region foe Ridgeline, the team they’d lost to in last year’s 4A title series.

It is still unwise to count the Bears out.

They won both games on Saturday, by scores of 8-4 and 12-3, to win their 11th state title in school history, tied for the top mark in Utah’s all-time softball history with Manti.

In addition to last year’s 4A title series, Bear River (26-6) also lost both region games to the Riverhawks this year.

“It’s really satisfying. They’ve got a tremendous team,” Bear River coach Calvin Bingham said.

“Oh it’s so sweet, since last year we’ve been beefing with them all season, so it was good,” BR senior pitcher Kate Dahle said.

Making the title even more satisfying for Bingham is the fact that it’s his last one. He’s retiring after this season with a state-leading 11 state titles to his name in 25 years as head coach.

So while speaking to reporters after the game, two of his players dumped ice water on him in the tradition of title-winning coaches throughout American sports.

“We’ve worked hard this year and it means a lot to me, and I hope it was a good experience for the kids,” Bingham said.

After Friday’s Game 1 loss by a score of 3-2, Bear River worked on its hitting and defense at the school’s indoor practice facility before driving south to Provo for Game 2 on Saturday evening.

Ridgeline led the first game 2-0 early before a three-run Bear River fourth inning made it 3-2.

A two-base error by second baseman Bella Douglas made it 4-3 for Ridgeline in the fourth. Douglas atoned for the error the very next frame, slicing a two-run double to the left-center field gap for a 5-4 Bear River lead.

The Bears made it 7-4 in that same inning. Emma Harrow’s two-out single made it 8-4 in the seventh, and senior Kate Dahle pitched a 1-2-3 bottom of the seventh, striking out Ridgeline’s 27-home-run hitter Anne Wallace to end the game.

“When we took out their first pitcher — that was our goal all game, even yesterday, was to see both pitchers. And when we did that I think we knew that we had it in the bag,” Dahle said.

Dahle, who is signed to pitch at BYU in college on the very same field where she led the Bears to a title, was in control in the circle Saturday.

She mixed a buckling changeup with her fastball, to great success.

“(Dahle’s) had a great year, kind of been the cornerstone of our whole program, done a great job. We’re a young team, we had two seniors, we had four or five sophomores starting, so it was really satisfying,” Bingham said.

Bear River had three baserunners thrown out on the basepaths in the first game, yet still won by four. The momentum, as it was two years ago, was firmly with the team in black and red.

“We came in with a bit more grit and determination than I think Ridgeline did and that just helped us pull ahead and gave us that extra edge,” BR third baseman Kendyl Archibald said.

Two years ago against Tooele, then-Bear River center fielder Olivia Taylor jumped over the outfield fence to rob a Tooele home run in a moment that went viral on the internet.

“We talked a little bit about two years ago, we talked about 20-something years ago when we won our first state championship when we came through the loser’s (bracket) and beat Tooele,” Bingham said. “So I really felt like we had a chance to do it because we were playing pretty good defense and we were hitting the ball.”

With a 3-2 lead in the top of the third inning of Saturday’s second game, shortstop Kaya Towne jumped up to catch a line drive for the third out and take away a surefire RBI single.

Bear River’s hitting kicked into gear in the bottom of the third. The Bears batted around the order to score eight runs, five of which came with two outs.

It started with a wild pitch (4-2) and a two-run error (6-2). Then, Harrow hit an RBI single, followed by Archibald’s single (8-2).

Towne’s RBI single to right field made it 9-2 before Douglas blasted a two-run double back to left-center field for an 11-2 lead.

Hitting, as the players said, is contagious.

“There’s no doubt about it, that is the No. 1 rule of softball,” Archibald said.

Douglas batted a combined 4 for 6 with four RBIs and two doubles in the two games.

Dahle pitched both games, allowing a grand total of 12 hits, seven runs and two walks against 15 strikeouts.

Strikeout No. 15 of the day, and No. 7 of the second game, clinched the title.

“You’ve got to keep calm and collected. I just came out and threw the best I could today. It was really fun and I love doing it,” Dahle said.

Two years ago as a sophomore, Dahle was the winning pitcher when the Bears beat Tooele in the third game of the 4A championship series to win the title.

“It’s hard to come back from a loss, right? I think I really had to dig down deep in me and remember, it’s not the end of the world, we can do this,” she said. “We did it two years ago, let’s do it again.”

Connect with reporter Patrick Carr via email at pcarr@standard.net, Twitter @patrickcarr_ and Instagram @standardexaminersports.


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