by Tad Barton
The San Juan Bronco softball team wrapped up another great season this weekend while competing in the Utah 2A Softball Championship.
San Juan eased through the first two rounds, dispatching Parowan 14-3 and South Summit 6-0.
In the third round, the Broncos faced Gunnison, one of the few 2A teams to defeat San Juan all year. The Bulldogs led most of the game, but the Broncos hung in there. They took their first lead in the top of the sixth before putting the game away with an 11-run seventh inning, giving San Juan the win, 16-4.
The Bronco run through the tournament hit a snag in the fourth round as they dropped a 10-1 contest to Manti.
The loss moved San Juan into the one-loss bracket, where they would face South Summit for the second time in the tournament.
The Wildcats gave the Broncos all they could handle as they led most the game, taking a 2-0 lead into the bottom of the sixth inning.
With their backs against the wall, San Juan answered to tie the game at 2-2 before winning in extra innings, 4-3.
In the championship game, San Juan drew first blood while scoring two runs in the top of the first.
Manti quickly answered by pushing five runs of their own across in the bottom of the first inning.
The Broncos would close the lead down to one run, 5-4, in the top of the fourth, but that’s as close as they would get.
The Templers scored a run in the bottom of the fourth and two more in the fifth to eventually claim the win and the State Championship, 8-4.
Against Parowan, the Broncos wasted no time getting on the board and taking control of the game.
San Juan drove in four runs in the first and another six runs in the second. San Juan wasn’t satisfied with the 10-0 lead as they pushed another four runs across home plate in the third inning to give them commanding 14-0 lead.
A small rally by Parowan in the top of the fifth produced three runs for the Rams, but it was too little too late as San Juan notched the win 14-3.
Tatiana Su’eSu’e added another win to her record as she surrendered three runs on four hits to go with six strikeouts over five innings of work.
Justin Hutchins and Nataiah Swenson led the way at the plate for the Broncos. Hutchins logged five runs batted in (RBI), three of those coming off a three run homer. Nataiah Swenson also had a hot bat for San Juan, driving in four runs.
In the second game of the tournament, the Broncos rode a superb pitching performance by Su’eSu’e to a 6-0 win.
Su’eSu’e pitched a complete game shutout giving up just two hits and fanning 10 Wildcats along the way.
Hutchins was hot at the dish again for the Broncos as she went a perfect 3 for 3. Lelani Begay led San Juan with two RBIs.
Game three of the tournament saw Gunnison jump out to an early 3-0 lead over San Juan. The Broncos managed to score one run in the fourth cutting the lead to two runs 3-1.
Another Bulldog score in the fifth didn’t bode well for the Broncos. Trailing 4-1 heading into the top of the sixth inning, Kellie Palmer got things going with a solo shot to left.
After that, the Bronco bats came alive, erupting for 14 more runs over the final two innings, including an 11-run seventh, to secure the win for San Juan 16-4.
In spite of trailing most the game Su’eSu’e was stellar from inside the circle, pitching 6 and 2/3 innings, giving up just four hits and ringing up 15 Bulldog batters.
Offensively, San Juan pounded Gunnison with six hitters combining for 14 hits, 12 RBIs and 16 runs.
Once again, Hutchins was a force at the plate, going 2-5 with four RBIs and a grand slam. Fellow senior Heidi Hiatt went a blistering 4-5 at the plate and drove in two RBIs.
Just as it seemed San Juan was on a roll, along came Manti and derailed the Broncos.
The Templers scored in every inning except for the sixth as they built a 9-0 lead. In the bottom of the sixth, Palmer attempted to get San Juan going when she hit a home run. San Juan was unable to score again and Manti added one more run, for a 10-1 final.
Su’eSu’E took the loss for the Bronco. She allowed ten runs in seven innings and struck out six. San Juan struggled at the plate for much of the contest, with the lone bright spot coming when Palmer hit the home run.
In their second meeting of the tournament, the Wildcats of South Summit would put up more of a fight with San Juan.
Holding a 2-0 lead going into the bottom of the sixth South Summit looked poised to win the game, but San Juan had other plans.
San Juan answered with two runs of their own in the bottom of the sixth inning. Neither team was able to score in the seventh leading the game into extra innings. The Wildcats scored first in the extra set pushing one run across to take a 3-2 lead. The Broncos answered with two runs of their own to steal the win, 4-3.
Going the distance in the circle yet another time, Su’eSu’e scattered seven hits and struck out seven in the win. Su’eSu’e was also big at the plate going 2-3 and driving in two RBIs. Emily Royer was 1-3, but that one hit, a double to center field drove in the game winning run.
In the Championship game, San Juan scored first with two runs in the top of the first inning.
Manti answered in the bottom half of the first scoring five runs and the Broncos found themselves’ playing catch up to the Templers yet again.
San Juan cut the Manti lead to two runs in the fourth, but Manti answered with one run themselves. The Templers put the game away in the fifth with a pair of runs to pushtheir lead to four runs, 8-4, where it would remain the rest of the game.
Six seniors played their last ball game for Coach Craig Swenson, including Heidi Hiatt, Justin Hutchins, Presley Mainord, Kellie Palmer, Emily Royer and Nataiah Swenson.
Each contributed in many ways throughout the season, including some excellent performances in their final few games in a Bronco uniform.
Thank you for all your hard work and the great memories you’ve given fans over the past four years.