NIBLEY — The competition was more fierce at times this season, but for the second straight summer a U14 girls fast-pitch softball team comprised of players from the north end of Cache Valley passed every test.
The North Logan Thunder capped off back-to-back undefeated seasons with a 14-6 triumph over the Hyrum Stingers in the championship game of their league tournament on Wednesday night at Anhder Park. The league featured teams from all around the valley.
“It’s been amazing,” Thunder head coach Joaby Parker said of his team’s two-year run. “The great part is the core of these girls have played together in basketball and softball for years now, six years, and so the best part is just watching them grow and get better. And this year in particular, the girls that were new to the team, it was amazing from the start to the end the improvement (they showed) ... so that was really fun to watch that all come together.”
Wednesday’s championship contest had a much different feel to it than the first time these teams squared off. The Thunder gunned out the tying run at the plate in the final inning of their 3-2 victory over the Stingers during the regular season.
“I think that this time we just did a lot better at relaxing and just playing our game,” said Thunder first baseman Livvy Phillips, who drove in four runs Wednesday. “The first time we played them we were really nervous, I think, but this felt great. Good competition. This was a really good team (we played).”
Top-seeded North Logan didn’t need any late heroics to prevail against second-seeded Hyrum this time around. The Thunder plated five runs in each of the first two frames — the maximum amount of runs teams are allowed to score in an inning — to jump out to a commanding 10-1 lead.
The Thunder racked up five hits in the top of the first, including doubles by Ally Parker and Taylie Balls and a triple by Phillips. Eight different North Logan players recorded a hit in the game and 11 of them reached base at least once.
“First of all, credit to (the Stingers),” coach Parker said. “They have a really tall pitcher who is really good, and she puts it across the plate almost every time. And so we just practiced knowing it was going to be across the plate and we said, ‘if we know it’s there, we can swing and we can hit it.’ And the girls came out and executed it amazing, and that’s kind of what we wanted to do is come out and show that we can hit the ball.”
North Logan’s big second inning was highlighted by a bases-clearing double by Phillips.
“You know what, it felt pretty good,” Phillips said of her second extra-base knock of the contest. “I mean, it was great to get so many of my teammates in ... and it helps boost the morale of the team.”
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North Logan’s advantage ballooned to 14-1 heading into the home half of the fourth and final frame. To their credit, the Stingers continued to play hard and manufactured five runs in the bottom of the fourth. Hailey Humphreys, Hallie Holbrook and Brea Holbrook all drove in runs for Hyrum in the last inning.
“I’m extremely proud of these girls this season,” Hyrum head coach Brinnley Noble said. “They’ve played their hearts out and enjoyed it the entire time, and I’m proud of them for that.”
Celeste Briggs stole three bases, scored twice and made a very nice sliding catch on her knees in foul territory in the top of the second for Hyrum, which got singles from Brea and Hallie Holbrook, Humphreys, Katie Barlow and Savannah Summers. Holbrook struck out five in her three inning in the circle.
Other players on Hyrum’s roster included Leah Morrison, Tasha Palmer, Eliza Hess, Laura Stabile, Lily Farmer, Audrey Ward, Tayla Youmans, Megan Olsen and Gracie Bersonnet. The Stingers didn’t lose to anyone but the Thunder this summer.
“We have girls who have never played before this year and to see them progress, to slide, to hit and catch balls better, was amazing,” Hyrum assistant coach Janice Barlow said.
Brooklyn Curtis pitched three complete innings for North Logan, fanned five and limited Hyrum to a pair of singles. Strong-armed catcher Ally Parker deftly gunned out a runner at third base in the bottom of the second.
Balls scored twice and drove in a run for the Thunder, who got two runs and one RBI from Parker and Jaida Curtis, and two runs from Carly Rindlisbacher.
In addition to the aforementioned players, North Logan was represented by talented shortstop Avery Parker — Ally’s twin sister — Taylor Godfrey, Courtney Hinds, Kenley Cleland, Tylee Jenson, Cassie Whittaker and Paige Esplin. Hinds singled and was plunked in her two at-bats, while Cleland walked and singled.
The Thunder won every game but one this season as they tied with the other North Logan squad early on.
“It was very valuable for them to play in close games and even get tied by our buddies there in North Logan,” said coach Parker, whose team displayed great discipline at the plate in the championship game. “What I told them after that game was ‘that’s why we play, right? You don’t want to play and not have competitive games?’ Next year a lot of these girls are going to go to high school and they’re going to be game after game where it’s going to be tight and competitive, so this prepares them for that.”
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