Thursday , May 24, 2018 - 10:26 PM
TAYLORSVILLE — Nyah DeRyke entered the 5A softball tournament with just one home run to her name this season, but she hit two in a pair of must-win games Thursday against Bountiful.
When things are clicking, they’re clicking, and for the Bees — against a Braves team they failed to beat in four previous meetings this season — things clicked at the perfect moment in the championship round at Valley Regional Softball Complex.
Box Elder used a seven-run seventh inning to soar past Bountiful 12-7 in the first game between the two teams, then held on to defeat the Braves 5-4 in the second game to win the 5A championship — the Bees’ first softball championship since 2006 and seventh overall.
“It feels freaking amazing because I didn’t think it was possible until this year, and now we just (won) it. It feels good,” Merrill said. “I can’t stop moving. My jitters are something.”
Apparently, all the food provided throughout the day was effective.
“We’re feeding them during the middle of the game — they’re eating Jimmy John’s, they’re eating handfuls of skittles to get a little more energy,” Box Elder coach Taleas Marble said.
Box Elder entered Thursday needing to win three games to win the title out of the one-loss bracket. West, last year’s 5A champion and a 5A finalist two years ago, was the first challenge. Box Elder jumped out to a 4-0 lead but had to rally late after falling behind 6-4. The Bees scored three in the top of the sixth to take an 8-6 lead and held on for an 8-7 victory.
That moved Box Elder into the championship round, needing to beat Bountiful twice as the Braves had yet to lose in the double-elimination tournament.
The Bees and Braves went back and forth in the first game, with Bountiful taking a 6-5 lead in the bottom of the sixth.
Merrill, who by that point had already hit two homers in the game, tied the game in the top of the seventh with an RBI single.
“Honestly, all season I’ve kind of been struggling, and I was like, ‘I’m in a slump,’ and coach Jordan (Theurer) the day before was like, ‘You’re going to hit so good this tournament,’ and I was like, ‘Yeah, I am,’” Merrill said.
“I had the confidence and it just carried a long way.”
Kyra Hardy, Reagan Marziale and Sydnie Blacker each stroked RBI singles to give Box Elder a 9-6 lead before DeRyke crushed a three-run homer.
DeRyke, who has been battling scoliosis throughout the season, was called on to start Game 2 in the circle. She limited Bountiful to just two runs through the first four innings, then helped her cause by blasting a two-run homer in the top of the fifth to give Box Elder a 4-2 advantage.
An RBI single by Sophia Stoddard in the bottom of the fifth pulled Bountiful within a run, and Livi Arona clubbed a solo homer in the bottom of the sixth to tie it.
Maycen O’Neal made sure DeRyke could still earn the victory with a two-out, RBI single in the top of the seventh.
DeRyke made sure to do her part. She got her payback against Arona in the bottom of the seventh by inducing a grounder to first baseman Brylee Marziale — the Bees’ winning pitcher in the first game against Bountiful, who also helped herself by launching a homer in that game.
Marziale tagged first base to end the game before jubilantly spiking the ball into the ground.
For DeRyke, it was her second state championship this season. She was the starting libero for Box Elder’s volleyball team that defeated Bountiful in five sets to win the 5A championship last fall.
“It’s a great way to go out your senior year,” DeRyke said.
Bountiful coach Butch Latey noted the extreme sadness his girls felt after the loss but said he told them to remember the feeling. He struck an optimistic note by mentioning this year’s squad only had two seniors.
Among Bountiful’s returners next year will be someone Latey said really helped take the team to a new level this year — Stoddard.
“We hit good most all year and then (Stoddard) was outstanding,” Latey said. “I’ll bet you her last 20 at-bats she got 17 hits.
“She’s a player. She can swing it.”
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