While they were saying good luck and singing about Reese’s Puffs, that takes a back seat to what the Ridgeline softball team accomplished Saturday afternoon in St. George.
For the first time in school history, the Riverhawks are state champions. Ridgeline did it convincingly at Dixie State University against Area 11 rival Bear River in the 4A State Softball Championship.
The Riverhawks enjoyed their first appearance with a title on the line. They won the first two games of a best-of-three series against the Bears, winning Saturday 8-2.
“It doesn’t feel real; it feels like a dream,” said Ridgeline pitcher Markessa Jensen.
“That feeling is amazing,” Riverhawk shortstop Kenzee Hale said. “It’s unreal.”
Center back Brinn Anderson said the win was for all former Riverhawks. This is the school’s sixth year of existence.
“In my heart, this is a win for all former players,” Anderson said. “They are still part of it.”
Prior to Friday, Ridgeline (26-5) had lost six straight to Bear River (28-5). Now the Riverhawks have won two games in a row. These two were big with a state championship on the line.
“Winning on Friday was really important,” Jensen said. “Our goal was to go out (Saturday) and do it.”
“We knew after winning that first game that if we could score in the first inning, things were going to roll for us, and we did,” Ridgeline’s Katelyn Leishman said. “… Everyone contributed in every way. Without our canoe, we would not have won any of these matches. Everyone played their part very well. »
And winning the championship game gave the team one last chance to sing “Reese’s Puffs” at the end of the season. When a player makes a good play, he is “inflated”. It became a team battle cry towards the end of the season.
“We got it from Tik-Tok,” Anderson said of singing Reese’s Puffs. “We stole it from there. Everyone loves him. This is our new wave of momentum.
Again, this was a team effort from Ridgeline. Nine Riverhawks recorded a hit finishing with 13. Jensen threw another gem, but got plenty of help from the defense as she struck out three and the remaining 18 outs came from field plays.
“It’s crazy that we’ve had nine kids who have been affected,” Ridgeline head coach Mike Anderson said. “…And we made a lot of routine defensive plays. We just left afterwards.
Adi Hansen, Brinn Anderson, Ellie Pond and Hale each had two hits apiece. Brinn Anderson, Pond and speed runner Allie Williams each scored two goals. Anne Wallace led the team with two RBIs, and Abbie Banning had the only extra hit with a brace. Karli Gowen had a single to complete the hit and Mak Jorgensen made plays into right field.
“Everyone played their part, from the fans to the team,” Hale said. “It was a team effort.”
Then there is Jensen. The coach said she was the best pitcher in the state. Jensen walked just one batter on Saturday to accompany her three strikeouts. The elder allowed just five hits.
“Kessa just came out and pitched like the best pitcher in the state,” Coach Anderson said. “…Markessa left no doubt who the better pitcher was.”
What has been his approach for the past four days?
“I just tried to see them like any other team and not think it was Bear River,” Jensen said. “I knew I had my defense right behind me. If they were to hit the ball, my defense would sustain the play and get an out. I have complete confidence in them.
While the Riverhawks came out and won the title going undefeated in St. George, they still called themselves lucky.
“Our definition of luck is this: Luck is something you do to set yourself up to get lucky,” Coach Anderson said. “It’s in the preparation.”
The Bears got two of their five hits from Kynlei Nelson. McCall Maxfield had an RBI double for the only extra base hit. Kate Dahl covered the distance in the circle, striking out six and stepping out one.
“I have a lot of respect for them (the Bears),” Coach Anderson said. “Bear River is the best team in the state, and today we were the best team.”
Ridgeline wasted no time in throwing the opening punch on Saturday after gutting a seventh-inning rally for a 3-2 win on Friday. The Riverhawks scored three early in the first and never looked back.
“Our feeling was, let’s not leave this for two games,” coach Anderson said. “We talked as the coaching staff that we were going to throw everything we possibly had at them. We wanted to get him in one game.
“We had a whole team effort of people in the dugout cheering us on no matter what the people on the pitch were doing,” Brinn Anderson said. “It was complete teamwork. The energy was full. I’ll be very honest, after our second win against Crimson Cliffs, there was no doubt in my mind that we were going to win. I was so positive.
Brinn Anderson picked right to start the hits for the designated visitors. Pond followed with a left single. Jensen then helped his cause with an RBI single down the middle to score Anderson. Pond would also come home on a Bears throwing error. Wallace made it 3-0 with an RBI groundout.
“When Noodle (Hansen, the leadoff hitter) doesn’t come up and we get three runs, it’s suffocating,” Coach Anderson said.
Bear River started the game with a single from Nelson. That would be it for the Bears in the bottom half of the first. In fact, the defending state champions didn’t enter the scoreboard until the sixth.
Nelson had a fielding single to start the sixth for Bear River. Maxfield’s brace brought Nelson home. The only walk issued by Jensen and the only error of the game by the Riverhawks led to a second run as the Bears shot within a run before Jensen stopped the rally with a strikeout.
“We knew they (the Bears) would have a punch and knew it was coming,” Coach Anderson said. “We took that punch in the sixth, but left a runner in the second, the tying run, in a 3-2 game. Then we recharged and went to work. And it was everyone who contributed.
Yes, the Riverhawks have certainly reloaded.
Ridgeline quickly foiled any thoughts of the Bears forcing a third game. Shelby Blankenship took the first pitch she saw in the top of the seventh and put it to center for a single. After a sacrificial bunt from Eliza Arledge, Hansen fought his way to an RBI single, scoring Williams. A bunt single from Brinn Anderson and an error from Bear River led to Hansen’s quick score. The Riverhawks were just getting started.
Pond singled and Jensen drew a walk to charge the bases with one out. Wallace had a simple RBI on the ground to keep the juice from the sacks. Hale came in with a simple RBI bloop to the right. Banning then hit a sacrificial fly to deep right field. The rally ended when the Bears managed to get a double play after the sack volley, bringing the ball home first when the Riverhawk runner failed to score.
Jensen only needed six shots to end the game and clinch the title. She drew a pop-up, hit a batter and got a second pop-up for Hale at shortstop. Hale grabbed it, dropped his glove and ran over to Jensen, giving him a bear hug, and the celebration began.
“As soon as I made that take, I knew immediately that we were state champions,” Hale said. “…We celebrate by eating food and then when we get home we’re going to celebrate some more.”
The Riverhawks have four seniors in Jensen, Hale, Anderson and Leishman.
“This state championship has been a long time coming,” Leishman said. “Several of us have been playing for a long time. I’ve been playing with Markessa and Brinnley for 11 years now. We knew we would get it.
To beat the heat and keep her body in shape, Ridgeline used 1,100 pounds of ice while in St. George. They ended their journey south with freezing water thrown at them in celebration.
After a celebratory meal at Winger’s, the Riverhawks boarded the bus for the ride home.
“We’re going to celebrate all the way home,” Jensen said.