The South Summit High School softball team hit an early road bump in the 2A playoffs on Thursday afternoon, when it fell to San Juan, the defending state champions.
But, because of the double-elimination setup to the tournament, the Wildcats survived to play another day after the 6-0 loss.
On Friday at the Spanish Fork Complex, South Summit battled and scrapped its way to three straight victories to advance to Saturday, the final day of the tourney.
The Wildcats' first game on Friday was against Grand County. After earning a 9-5 win, they moved on to face a tough Enterprise team. That game was difficult, but South Summit stayed alive with a narrow 4-3 victory.
The Wildcats' final Friday game pitted them against Emery. A balanced effort led to South Summit advancing to Saturday's action via an 8-2 final score.
On Saturday, the Wildcats got another shot at San Juan. In a game that would decide who got to play Manti in the finals, the two teams battled to a 3-3 tie heading into the final inning.
In the end, San Juan walked off with a 4-3 win and ultimately fell to Manti in the title game, 8-4.
"It was a great game," South Summit coach Cody Bowen said of the Wildcats' effort against San Juan. "We had them down to one strike and they hit a blooper to just the right spot."
Though the way the season ended left a bitter taste in the team's mouth, Bowen said there's a lot to be proud of this year.
"We had some high expectations and we fell a little short," he said. "It was a tough way to end, but they played really well. They hit well, played great defense and pitched well."
Being able to survive and advance so far in the tournament was a testament to how strong this year's squad was, Bowen added.
"There aren't many teams that can lose a game on Thursday and then win four in a row to make it to Saturday," he said. "It's always a good thing to play on Saturday. It means we've done some good stuff."
South Summit finished the year as the third-place team in 2A softball. Already looking ahead to next year, Bowen said the team's expectations will be even higher.
"It's exciting that, while it's unfortunate we're losing [senior] Jamie McNeil, we'll have all the other girls back next year," he said. "We've got a lot of girls that can do a lot of things. They're skilled, they're active and they're deep."
And they'll be motivated not to suffer any more devastating playoff losses, he added.
"It was a good experience for them," he said. "They have quite an appetite for [a title] now, making it that close this year."
With Manti, San Juan and other top teams losing several seniors apiece, Bowen said the stars might align for the Wildcats in 2015.
"It looks good for us next year," he said. "Hopefully we can stay together and keep progressing and make some noise this time next year."