knew the defense was behind me, and as cliché as that sounds, that was what gave me confidence. —Cami Mathews
TAYLORSVILLE — Cami Mathews had never been called on to pitch for Taylorsville earlier than the fifth inning.
So when her coach asked her to step in the circle after Hannah Randall, the first Viewmont batter of the third inning, smacked the Vikings' second home run of Tuesday's critical region game, she admitted to feeling a little pressure.
"Definitely nervous," she said after the Warriors battled back for a 12-9 win and a share of the region title (if both teams win on Thursday). "Anytime I've gone in, it's later in the game."
It was, after all, senior day, a chance to avenge an earlier loss, and she knew from experience that every member of the Viking lineup could hit the ball. But before the nerves could get the best of her, she remembered something her coach is fond of pointing out — she was just one member of the Warriors' squad.
"I knew the defense was behind me, and as cliché as that sounds, that was what gave me confidence," she said. "I knew my team would get outs in the field. I knew I didn't have to do it myself."
Mathews did what she could, starting with her home run in the bottom of the second inning that put the Warriors on the scoreboard.
"I knew she would get the job done," said catcher Desiree Peterson, one of the team's two seniors. "She always does."
Taylorsville head coach Rich Kaelin called a timeout just a few batters after Mathews took over and reminded the team that if they had faith in themselves and each other, they'd not only come back from a four-run defecit, they'd get out of the inning without allowing the runners on first and third to score.
"Cami started it off with the home run," Kaelin said of the Warriors' comeback. "They said, 'Hey, we can hit her.'"
The "her" was Vikings pitcher Eliza Thornley. And she wasn't the only intimidating factor in Tuesday afternoon's game.
Viewmont started strong offensively when the game's second batter, Thornley, smacked a double to get things started. Staci Payne got the first of her three hits of the game and then Caity Larsen hit the game's first home run.
The Vikings held Taylorsville scoreless and then scored two more runs in the top of the second inning. That's when Mathews took the first pitch Thornley threw her and sent it over the centerfield fence.
After that, both teams traded hits. Viewmont finished with 15 hits and Taylorsville racked up 13. The Vikings had five errors in the field, while Taylorsville had three errors.
Mathews and the Warrior defense kept Taylorsville in the game until freshman pitcher Jaycie Lebaron returned to the game at the top of the sixth inning and held Viewmont scoreless. Lebaron earned the win in the circle.
"This is a young team so it's quite amazing how far we've come," said Kaelin.
He said winning the region title meant a lot to the players.
"They don't want to be the ones in the line of tradition that haven't had it," he said. "We've won 13 of the last 14 years — that is, if we beat West Thursday."