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Spanish Fork • It only was fitting that it was a ground ball to the left side that set off the celebration.
Grantsville third baseman Kylee Leach cleanly fielded the dribbler, set and fired to first, where Reannon Justice picked the low throw to send the Cowboys to the Class 3A softball state title game.
Grantsville's defense made the difference in Friday's 4-1 win over Ridgeline. Potential rally starters went to die when hit at the left side of the Cowboys' defense.
"In practice, we work on getting to the ball," Grantsville shortstop Hannah Butler said. "We want to make the extra play. And mostly we want to make the basic plays, to be there when the ball comes and just not over-think it."
Grantsville pitcher Alese Casper, who struck out 10 in Thursday's win over Desert Hills, leaned on those behind her this time. She struck out three Ridgeline batters, but none after the second inning. She instead kept Leach and Butler busy, with eight outs coming on ground balls to one of those two.
"I know they have my back," Casper said.
Leach and Butler also each caught a line drive, and the two combined to shag three popups as well.
"We really rely on each other to pick each other up because we call ourselves a family," Butler said. "We really use each other to pick each other up."
Even when Ridgeline threatened in the top of the seventh, Butler and Leach snuffed out the threat. Butler flipped to second for a pair of force outs and Leach assisted on the final out.
"Our defense is probably as good as it's ever been," Grantsville coach Heidi Taylor said. "And if Alese is throwing well, which she was, she's going to, for the most part, give them balls they can make plays on."
The Cowboys struck first in the fourth when Justice roped a double that smooched the outside of the left-field line. She scored on an error, and Addison Smith knocked in a run with a single. Brayle Crosman added an insurance run in the fifth on a sacrifice fly to left.
Butler got in on the action with a shot to left field. She kept at top speed as she rounded first and headed for second, unsure where the ball landed. It wasn't until she saw her teammates gleefully heading to the plate to meet her that she realized the ball landed over the fence.
"I've been in a slump recently," she said. "I felt like I really wanted to hit the ball. I've just been so antsy and nervous."
• Grantsville will try for its first softball state title since 1998.
• Seven different players collect a hit for Grantsville.
• Alese Casper strikes out three and walks one to earn the win in the circle.
Class 3A state tournament
at Spanish Fork Complex
Championship play-in game
9:30 a.m. • Ridgeline vs. Bear River
Noon • Grantsville vs. winner of play-in game*
* If Grantsville loses noon game, a winner-take-all game would follow immediately.