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Prep softball: West rallies past Taylorsville in second round of 5A playoffs

Published May 19, 2016 10:35 pm

Prep softball • Down big early, Panthers rally past Taylorsville.
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West High came from behind twice Thursday and Rayna Aiono hit a two-run walk-off homer in the bottom of the seventh inning to complete the Panthers' comeback against the Taylorsville Warriors for a 12-11 victory in their 5A second-round softball playoff game.

After allowing nine runs and four home runs from the Warriors in the first 31⁄3 innings, West head coach Keith Lopati made a pitching change, inserting freshman Kamora Masina.

The comeback began in the next inning when bases-loaded singles from Masina and Huntyr Ava made the score 9-3 Warriors.

Then in the fifth, RBIs from the Ava sisters (Breah and Huntyr), as well as Molini Vailahi cut the deficit to three as they made it a 9-6 lead for Taylorsville.

Masina had kept the Warriors scoreless since she took the circle in the top of the third, and her efforts were rewarded in the sixth when Huntyr Ava belted a three-run triple to knot the score at 9-9.

One batter later, Shayna Alofipo's RBI single gave West its first lead since Breah Ava's team-leading 11th home run in the bottom of the first made it 1-0 Panthers.

Then, with two outs in the top of the seventh, the Warriors refused to give up as Asenaca Lesum drove a two-run double into the gap to retake the lead 11-10 for Taylorsville.

Things looked bleak for the Panthers as their first batter of the seventh, Miikella Ulibari, grounded out to first. But the West High home crowd erupted when Meecee Kupuwai pinged a ball toward the fence for a double. Next up for West was Aiono, who had a message for a teammate before she took the plate.

"Before her at bat, I told Neecee [Kupuwai] 'this is our time'. So when she got on base I knew I had to bring her in."

And with one swing of the bat, she sent the black-clad dugout into pandemonium as she blasted a ball over the center-field fence for the game-winner.

"I wasn't even looking, I was just running as fast as I could," Aiono said. "It was a relief, I knew we could do it. We started off bad, but I knew that we would have a strong finish and win it."

Thursday's win was a complete team effort, combining the pitching of Masina and several clutch hits from the Ava sisters.

"I just saw my teammates on the bags and I couldn't leave them stranded," Breah Ava said about her at-bat in the bottom of the sixth. "It was scary, I had a little doubt but I just looked at our lineup and I knew my girls would have my back."

After Breah went 3-for-4 from the plate with her double, all of the pressure was on sister Huntyr to knock her and her teammates in.

"I didn't feel much pressure because I had confidence in us all the while," Huntyr said. "I was just waiting for them to get on base so that we could all have each other's backs."

After the game, West head coach Keith Lupati expressed the same confidence that his players felt while they battled back into the game.

"We knew it was going to be a great challenge for us," Lupati said. "But we knew if we just stuck to our game plan, where our strength is our hitting, and we believed in it, it didn't matter what was going to happen. We knew that if we played some quality defense here and there, we were going to be there in the end, and that's exactly what happened."

With 49 home runs on the season before Thursday's game even started, everyone knew that the Panthers' strength was their power. And while West did finish with two home runs on the day, placement hitting was used throughout the majority of the comeback.

"We've seen different types of pitching," Lupati said. "We've covered how to hit against slower pitchers and placing the ball as opposed to just going over the fence. It's a credit to our girls and our coaches for adjusting to [Taylorsville's] pitcher and putting the ball in play."

Next up for the Panthers is defending champion Lehi in the 5A quarterfinals at the Valley Softball Complex on Tuesday. —

5A scoreboard

Thursday's second round

Winners' bracket

• Riverton 5, Fremont 1

• Syracuse 13, Sky View 12

• Lehi 4, Copper Hills 2

• West 12, Taylorsville 11

Losers' bracket

• Davis 8, Cottonwood 7

• Herriman 3, Bingham 2

• Clearfield 4, Layton 1

• Mountain Crest 5, Pleasant Grove 4 Tuesday's games Winners' bracket • Riverton vs. Syracuse, 4:30 p.m. • Lehi vs. West, 6:45 p.m. Losers' bracket • Taylorsville vs. Davis, noon • Copper Hills vs. Herriman, noon • Sky View vs. Clearfield, 2:15 p.m. • Fremont vs. Mountain Crest, 2:15 p.m.






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