TAYLORSVILLE — All year long the Spanish Fork softball team prepared to play the program that has dominated the 3A classification for the last four years.
"We've been preparing for Bear River this whole season," said senior center fielder Kylee Wolf after the Dons battled back from a heartbreaking extra-inning 6-5 loss to the Bears at 10 a.m. Saturday to earn a berth in Monday's championship game at Salt Lake Community College. In order to earn a second shot at the four-time defending 3A champions, last year's 4A champs — who moved to 3A after the last realignment, needed to win three straight games.
They defeated Stansbury (11-1), Wasatch (19-2) and in the last game of the 10-hour day, the Dons beat Snow Canyon (17-0).
"It looks like we're going to get another shot," said Wolf.
Spanish Fork head coach Don Andrews relied mostly on the arm of Kailey Christensen, who threw complete games against Bear River and Snow Canyon. Ashlee Gordon threw parts of the second and third games to give Christensen a little rest.
Ten hours, 52 runs, a half dozen home runs (two by Wolf) and the Dons had earned the chance to play Bear River at least one more time.
"It's been a long day," said Andrews laughing. "This is a good team. We had a little adversity to begin with, but this is a good group of seniors."
The Dons' senior class has finished third, second and first the last three seasons, respectively. But they face a senior-loaded Bear River team that is even more accomplished.
Before the Warriors took on Spanish Fork, they were beaten 13-3 by the Bears in what was that team's 24th straight playoff victory.
Senior Morgan Summers has never finished a season without winning a title.
"I feel so blessed to be able to play on such a good team, for such a great organization," said the center fielder. "This year, definitely coming into the state tournament we have a lot of pressure and a target. Everyone is shooting for us. We knew this year was probably going to be the toughest of my high school career. All of these amazing teams in 3A this year."
Summers is known for her speed, which makes her the perfect lead-off hitter for the Bears.
In the team's second game Saturday, she surprised even herself when she hit a grand slam in her final at-bat.
"I asked coach (Calvin Bingham) if I was going to hit away, and he said, 'Just hit the crap out of the ball,' " said Summers with a smile. "It felt so good coming off the bat. I had no idea it was over the fence."
Summers' grand slam in the seventh inning gave the Bears their last four runs and highlighted just how talented the defending 3A state champions are.
"I think this group has worked harder than any I've had," said Bingham.
Summers said some of that is the pressure that comes with playing for such a storied program. Some of it comes from the fact that teams like Spanish Fork (last year's 4A state champion) and Snow Canyon (one of 4A's top programs the last few years), moved into the 3A ranks with the last realignment.
"They knew this 3A championship was going to be tougher," Bingham said.
The Bears survived a 10-inning thriller Saturday morning when they faced top-ranked Spanish Fork in the day's first matchup. Theurer smacked a two-run home run in that game to earn a 6-5 win. She also pitched both games for the Bears.
Both coaches and players believed it would be Spanish Fork earning a spot in that title game on Monday at 2 p.m. at Salt Lake Community College.
"I think (Spanish Fork) is definitely what it's going to be," said Summers before the Dons and Warriors had even played an inning of softball. "It's kind of what we were hoping for. That first game was crazy."