Wildcats earn emotional victory in St. George
A dramatic two-run walk-off home run by Katelyn Rogers in the bottom of the seventh inning led the South Summit High School softball team to the championship at the March Warm-Up Tournament in St. George, Utah, last weekend.
The tournament began on Friday afternoon for the Wildcats, as they faced the Class 3A Ogden Tigers. The Lady Cats started off fast, scoring four first-inning runs, highlighted by a long home run by Brooke George.
Ogden clawed back, taking a 5-4 lead into the bottom of the seventh inning. However, the Lady Cats battled back in the bottom half of the final frame. A hit by Jamie McNeil brought in the winning run for a 6-5 victory. Pitcher Natalie Nichols scattered eight hits over seven innings to record the win.
In the second game, South Summit faced another 3A foe in Judge Memorial. Taylor Reidhead got the start in the circle and held the Judge bats to just two hits in recording a 9-1 victory. Jamie McNeil hit a three-run home run leading the way to the win. The Wildcat defense came up very big, committing no errors while making some terrific plays in support of Reidhead.
South Summit then faced Class 2A Beaver High School in game three. Pitcher Natalie Nichols easily handled the game, allowing only three hits. The Lady Cats pounded 14 hits on their way to a 13-3 rout.
The three wins set up the South Summit girls with a chance to play for the tournament championship on Saturday. The semifinal opponent was Class 4A East High School. The team was energized to face the larger school. Natalie Nichols once again took to the circle to lead the Lady Cats.
Trailing 4-1 heading into the bottom of the fourth, South Summit was looking for a spark. That spark came when sophomore Sidney Vidrine blasted a solo home run over the left-field fence. South Summit scratched out another run in the fifth inning after a double by Taylor Reidhead.
When the Lady Cats came to bat in the bottom of the final inning, they trailed by one run. South Summit was down to the final out when senior Abigail Petersen laced a single up the middle to reach base. Jamie McNeil then hit a hard grounder that was misplayed, allowing her to reach base and advancing Petersen to third. Katelyn Rogers then lined a single to left, scoring Petersen to tie the game. Senior Brooke George then ripped the first pitch she saw into centerfield, scoring pinch runner Thailer James for another come-from-behind win.
The Lady Cats were now set to face the Class 2A Wildcats of Richfield for the championship. After the highly emotional comeback win against East, the 50-plus South Summit fans felt that that the championship was not in doubt. That magical feeling was elevated when the team took the field wearing pink uniforms in honor of Coach Cody Bowen’s wife Melanie, who is battling breast cancer. The Lady Cats were dedicating the championship game to their coach and his family.
However, the pre-game feeling of invincibility was shattered quickly. Richfield hit the ball hard, finding every hole on the field, scoring six first-inning runs.
Still, the girls from South Summit fought. They scored two first-inning runs, and after two innings, the Lady Cats trailed 8-7. After three innings, South Summit was trailing 12-9. The offense was keeping the game close. Hits including a double by sophomore Mckay Woolstenhulme and a home run by Reidhead fired up the fans.
But every time South Summit got within striking distance, Richfield would pull away. Coach Bowen then replaced pitching ace Natalie Nichols with Reidhead, who shut down the Richfield hitters. South Summit battled back to a 12-12 tie going into the sixth inning. In the top of the sixth, Richfield pushed two runs across to take the lead.
Down 14-12 going into the bottom of the seventh, speedster Nichols reached first on an infield single to start the inning. Senior Kylie Atkinson followed with a double off the centerfield fence, scoring Nichols. Following a groundout by Petersen, Jamie McNeil reached base on an infield error. With Atkinson still on third, James pinch ran for McNeil. On the first pitch to Katelyn Rogers, James darted towards second. The Richfield catcher threw to second, and Atkinson raced for home. The Richfield shortstop cut off the throw to second and fired home. Atkinson was called out on a close play at the plate.
The Lady Cats were down to their last out, trailing by one run. Rogers saw another pitch. She stepped out of the batter’s box and took her customary practice swings. With the count one ball and one strike, Katelyn connected, hitting a two-run walk-off home run, giving the Wildcats a 15-14 win and the tournament championship.
There was no way these girls were going to lose that game. They won that game for themselves. They won that game for the parents and fans who made the long trip south for the weekend. Most importantly, they won that game for their coach and they won that game for Melanie Bowen.
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While walking down Main Street early Sunday afternoon, one couldn’t help but notice the electric atmosphere. The street was completely blocked off, making way for some of the best cyclists in the world to compete in the sixth and final stage of the Tour of Utah.