Taylorsville • Kirtlyn Bohling remembers the nerves.
As a sophomore starting pitcher on last year's Salem Hills softball team, Bohling couldn't keep still, either in the circle or the dugout. The stage, along with the expectations on a senior-laden team, was sky high.
Bohling received the loss in the Class 4A state title game.
"I was shaking in my boots," she said.
She didn't shake anything but her teammates' hands Wednesday night as the Skyhawk star pitcher led her team back to the 4A championship game with a dominant 16-2 victory over Region 8 rival Provo in the winners bracket final.
"This year," said Bohling, applying a large bag of ice atop her right arm, "I just feel confident."
A day after hitting a walk-off grand slam to beat 4A powerhouse Box Elder, Bohling shut down a Bulldog offense that handed Salem Hills its lone region loss of the season. She registered seven strikeouts.
But it was the Skyhawk offense, which took an abnormal approach to the game, that took center stage early. Salem Hills, typically not an aggressive base-running team, ran. The Skyhawks ran and ran and stole base after base, which put pressure on the Provo defense.
"It was a risk to steal bases at the beginning," Salem Hills coach Renae Kinghorn said, "but it paid off."
The Skyhawks scored runs in each of the first four innings, jumping out to a 6-0 lead before blowing open the doors in the top of the seventh. They scored 10 runs by stringing together seven consecutive RBIs with two outs.
Senior catcher Kaylee Simons roped an RBI double in the top of that frame, then received her high school diploma in full graduation attire on home plate when the final out of the game was recorded. In her eyes, the Skyhawks weren't supposed to be back on this stage, playing for a state crown, not after losing 10 seniors.
"As a rebuilding year," she said, "I don't think anyone expected this from us."
But here they are, and there was Simons, receiving her diploma on a clay infield in Taylorsville after missing graduation Wednesday afternoon. The group Kinghorn calls loose and energetic doesn't need to understand the stage. Her Skyhawks just need to keep on doing what they've done all year.
"I kind of like our ignorance," she said, "if that's the right word."
At Valley Softball Complex
5 p.m. • Salem Hills vs. winner of 2:30 p.m. game
Losers bracket final
2:30 p.m. • Provo vs. Box Elder
*If Salem Hills loses the 5 p.m. game, a winner-take-all title game would take place 15 minutes after the conclusion of the game.
4:30 p.m. • Salem Hills vs. Maple Mountain
7 p.m. • Timpanogos vs. loser of Salem Hills-Maple Mountain
At Rio Tinto Stadium
7 p.m. • Orem vs. Bountiful