SPANISH FORK — Weber High’s softball team was hoping for a good practice on Monday, a couple days after the Warriors advanced to the 6A state championship bracket in Spanish Fork.
But when they got to practice Monday afternoon, it wasn’t what the players had hoped.
The school had conducted its required COVID-19 testing for student athletes that morning, which resulted in five starters on the softball team getting sent home either for positive tests or close-contact quarantines, according to sources familiar with the matter.
“I mean, we’re all sad because we lost a huge chunk of our team, but we got together at practice yesterday, we shed a few tears then we decided we have two choices,” Weber coach Melinda Wade said. “We can sit and feel sorry for ourselves or we can go out and fight, that’s what the girls decided to do. We’re just going to come out and fight no matter the outcome.”
The Warriors worked a lot on defense Monday, had 12 players in the dugout Tuesday in Spanish Fork and the way things started on a muggy day, it didn’t seem to matter that more than half the starting lineup was missing.
The No. 5 Warriors beat No. 4 Clearfield 4-1 in the first game Tuesday morning, overcoming a start that looked for all the world like it would be a Falcons romp.
“I was super proud of the girls. It would’ve been real easy and everybody would’ve said, ‘That’s OK’ to just roll over and (quit). It would’ve been real easy for us just to give up and say we don’t have a chance,” Wade said.
Clearfield pitcher Jayci Finch struck out eight of the first nine Weber batters. But the Warriors found some rhythm at the plate, enough to support pitcher Brooke Merrill who struck out 11 batters and allowed five hits.
Weber scored one in the fourth, two in the fifth and one more in the seventh to turn around an early 1-0 Falcons lead.
Merrill hit 2 for 4. Hadley Howell hit 2 for 4 with a double and Kendall Strasburg drove in two runs for the Warriors.
Miranda Mansfield hit 2 for 4 with a triple for Clearfield and Eli Salazar hit 2 for 3.
“We started off a little nervous, a little tense and they realized all of a sudden that we’re in this,” Wade said.
It was a jolt of energy for the Warriors, one sorely needed even if they had their full lineup because their next foe was No. 1 Riverton, a more-than-formidable team with arguably the best group of pitchers in the state.
Riverton pitcher Chloe Borges tossed a five-inning no-hitter as the Warriors fell 11-1 in their second game Tuesday. That pits them in a rematch against Clearfield — the Falcons run-ruled No. 10 Layton in a one-loss elimination game — in a Wednesday morning elimination game at 10:30 a.m.
The winner will meet a rested Riverton team at 12:30 p.m. Wednesday with a berth in the state championship series at stake.
“That’s been our theme is make (every moment) count, so we’re going to come out and keep fighting and trying to make those moments count,” Wade said.
Whichever of Weber or Clearfield wins the morning game would need to beat Riverton twice to advance to the championship series. Riverton has just one loss on its record all season.