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High school softball: Top seed Ridgeline, No. 2 Desert Hills stay unbeaten in 4A tourney

Ridgeline plays Cedar during the high school 4A state softball tournament at Spanish Fork Sports Park in Spanish Fork on Wednesday, May 15, 2024.
Ridgeline plays Cedar during the high school 4A state softball tournament at Spanish Fork Sports Park in Spanish Fork on Wednesday, May 15, 2024. | Megan Nielsen, Deseret News

The top two seeds in the 4A state softball tournament stayed unbeaten Wednesday as each of them recorded two wins to move within one win of the state championship series to be held on Saturday.

The top seeded Ridgeline Riverhawks beat No. 8 seed Hurricane 8-0 and No. 4 seed Cedar 12-0 in five innings of play, while No. 2 seed Desert Hills beat No. 7 Bear River 6-2 and No. 6 Payson 9-1 to stay unbeaten in the 4A bracket held at the Spanish Fork Complex.

Ridgeline’s pitching was stellar in both of its games as it held Hurricane to just three hits and then was able to throw a combined no-hitter against Cedar.

“You know it’s a big thing right now. Trying to save arms, trying to be as efficient as you can. And when our pitchers do that, it keeps the pressure on the other team and will keep us fresh for tomorrow.” Ridgeline head coach Michael Anderson said.

Against Cedar, Brielle Gardiner threw four innings, striking out four against three walks. Abigail King then came on to close the game, getting a strikeout in her one inning of work.

“It’s a pretty amazing thing. I think what Brielle was able to do today was stay ahead of the count all day no matter the opponent, and then to bring in a left who is able to change speeds, it really throws things off for the opponent,” Anderson said.

Against Cedar the Riverhawks bats were hot out of the gate, as they scored two runs in the bottom of the first inning thanks to a home run from Gardiner and a single from Olivia Nielson that brought home Anne Wallace.

Then in the second inning, Ridgeline took a commanding lead, scoring seven runs, with help coming from everywhere. With not a single hit accounting for more than one run at a time, six different players were able to record an RBI in the inning (one run came thanks to an error).

“What we wanted to do today was go 3 up and 3 down (on defense), quickly get the opponent out in the top of the first without allowing any runs and then we would try and score that first inning. We feel like that sets the tone for the team and immediately puts the pressure on the other team to start catching up,” Anderson said.

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Payson’s Alli Drake catches the ball, tagging Desert Hills’ Riley Greene out at second base, during the high school 4A state softball tournament at Spanish Fork Sports Park in Spanish Fork on Wednesday, May 15, 2024. | Megan Nielsen, Deseret News
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Ridgeline plays Cedar during the high school 4A state softball tournament at Spanish Fork Sports Park in Spanish Fork on Wednesday, May 15, 2024. | Megan Nielsen, Deseret News
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Ridgeline’s Anne Wallace hits the ball during the game against Cedar in the high school 4A state softball tournament at Spanish Fork Sports Park in Spanish Fork on Wednesday, May 15, 2024. | Megan Nielsen, Deseret News
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Payson plays Desert Hills during the high school 4A state softball tournament at Spanish Fork Sports Park in Spanish Fork on Wednesday, May 15, 2024. | Megan Nielsen, Deseret News
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Payson plays Desert Hills during the high school 4A state softball tournament at Spanish Fork Sports Park in Spanish Fork on Wednesday, May 15, 2024. | Megan Nielsen, Deseret News
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Ridgeline plays Cedar during the high school 4A state softball tournament at Spanish Fork Sports Park in Spanish Fork on Wednesday, May 15, 2024. | Megan Nielsen, Deseret News
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Cedar’s Kaycee Adams pitches the ball against Ridgeline during the high school 4A state softball tournament at Spanish Fork Sports Park in Spanish Fork on Wednesday, May 15, 2024. | Megan Nielsen, Deseret News
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Desert Hills players celebrate scoring multiple runs against Payson in the 5th inning during the high school 4A state softball tournament at Spanish Fork Sports Park in Spanish Fork on Wednesday, May 15, 2024. | Megan Nielsen, Deseret News
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Desert Hills’ Campbell Tate slides into home plate during the game against Payson in the high school 4A state softball tournament at Spanish Fork Sports Park in Spanish Fork on Wednesday, May 15, 2024. | Megan Nielsen, Deseret News
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Ridgeline plays Cedar during the high school 4A state softball tournament at Spanish Fork Sports Park in Spanish Fork on Wednesday, May 15, 2024. | Megan Nielsen, Deseret News
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Payson plays Desert Hills during the high school 4A state softball tournament at Spanish Fork Sports Park in Spanish Fork on Wednesday, May 15, 2024. | Megan Nielsen, Deseret News
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Payson plays Desert Hills during the high school 4A state softball tournament at Spanish Fork Sports Park in Spanish Fork on Wednesday, May 15, 2024. | Megan Nielsen, Deseret News
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Payson plays Desert Hills during the high school 4A state softball tournament at Spanish Fork Sports Park in Spanish Fork on Wednesday, May 15, 2024. | Megan Nielsen, Deseret News
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Payson plays Desert Hills during the high school 4A state softball tournament at Spanish Fork Sports Park in Spanish Fork on Wednesday, May 15, 2024. | Megan Nielsen, Deseret News
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Payson plays Desert Hills during the high school 4A state softball tournament at Spanish Fork Sports Park in Spanish Fork on Wednesday, May 15, 2024. | Megan Nielsen, Deseret News
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Payson plays Desert Hills during the high school 4A state softball tournament at Spanish Fork Sports Park in Spanish Fork on Wednesday, May 15, 2024. | Megan Nielsen, Deseret News

On the other side of the complex, Desert Hills was able to soundly defeat its two opponents as well, marking the first time it has advanced past the first two games of the tournament.

“It feels amazing, getting the first 2 games out of the way in a winning fashion. It’s a tough thing to do. We haven’t done that before. Its fun to get that monkey off our back,” said Desert Hills coach Heidi Taylor.

First up was a win over defending 4A champion Bear River, which beat Desert Hills earlier this season and eliminated it from the 2023 tournament.

Then against Payson, the Thunder got off to a bit of a slow start, and the game was tied 1-1 going into the fourth inning. Desert Hills held the Lions scoreless in the top half of the inning and then its bats got going.

The Thunder got three hits in the frame, which ultimately led to three runs to get a cushion. After blanking the Lions again the next inning, Desert Hills had two runners on with two outs when Lulu West came up to bat.

West hit a single on a line drive to the right fielder, which then hit the ground just before the defender to get to it, allowing Jayla Ybright and Campbell Tate to come, increasing the Thunder lead to five.

Desert Hills wasn’t close to done in the inning, though, as Nelyana Brinagh was able to come home thanks to an error, and then a Riley Greene single brought Sienna Foster home.

After Bailey Lee was able to draw a walk in five pitches, Payten Benson brought Greene home for the last run of the game.

“They’re a very fun group of girls,” Taylor said. “We’ve been telling them all year to just have fun. At this point it’s all about the experience and being able to have fun doing it. They have already accomplished a ton. We need to just keep enjoying the moment.”