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Softball Playoffs: St. Helens headed to state semifinals

Lions beat No. 1 Sandy 1-0, and will play Rex Putnam on Tuesday for the chance at the Class 5A championship game


by: JOHN WILLIAM HOWARD - Alyssa Geisbers cheers after the Lions got the final out of the eighth inning, sending St. Helens to the state semifinals with Rex Putnam. It was Geisbers who beat the ball to third base in the top of the period, allowing Taylor Leal to score and give the Lions a 1-0 lead.SANDY - It’s the situation that every softball player dreams of: tied in extra innings, two outs, bases loaded, and you’re up to bat.

But for St. Helens sophomore Ashley Geisbers, it was all business.

With two strikes on the board, Geisbers hit a grounder between second and third as the Lions capitalized on an error at third base to score in the top of the eighth, securing the win over the top-ranked Sandy Pioneers and thrusting themselves into a quarterfinal match up with West Albany.

Her grounder bounced right to the glove of Pioneer shortstop Hailey Valitski, who dodged an advancing Alyssa Geisbers and attempted a throw toward third, looking to pick a runner off and preserve the stalemate.

Geisbers and the ball arrived at third in unison, but Hannah Holiday bobbled the ball at third base, sending the visiting crowd into hysterics as Taylor Leal jumped on home plate.

Leal, breathless with victory, struggled to find words to describe her thoughts.

“I was just running,” she said. “I didn’t know if she was out already, I didn’t know if it was in the outfield, I just ran.”

Ashley Geisbers has been a threat all season long, but not so much with her bat. It’s been her ability to make contact and speed to first that has made her dangerous, but with the bases loaded and two outs, the Lions couldn’t risk a sacrifice.

“I told Ashley [Geisbers] to poke it over the third basemen’s head because I knew there was a gap there and I knew they weren’t going to throw her out,” said Head Coach Miranda Little. “When she hit it to that side, I was just hoping everyone was going to run quick and then they balled it.”

Geisbsers sprinted for first, but her reputation preceded her: she’s fast enough that Sandy knew they’d have a better chance at going for a different base runner.

“I just hit it as hard as I could and started running as fast as I could because I knew I needed to get on base to score that run,” said Geisbers. “Once I got to first, I saw the ball on the ground at third and I almost started crying.”

It was the cheers of the traveling fans that tipped Leal off to what exactly the Lions had accomplished. With the run in the books, she was confident they had it in the bag.

“I was just sprinting as hard as I can, and I saw everyone stand up and start screaming,” Leal said. “As soon as I touched home plate, I knew that they had done something to let us score.”

The run gave St. Helens a 1-0 edge after more than seven innings of a pitcher’s duel. Until that point, junior ace Mariah Mulcahy had struck out eight batters, allowing just four hits. With the game on the line, Mulcahy calmly struck out all three of the batters in the bottom of the eighth, finishing with 11 retired batters and no walks through eight innings.

The win sets the Lions up for a rematch against the fifth-ranked Rex Putnam on Tuesday, June 3. The two NWOC foes split the season series, with each team winning on their own home field. The Lions picked up the first game - a 1-0 victory at home on April 29 - but lost the second half of the series 5-2 on May 14.

Leal was straight to the point on what would happen in the state semifinal.

“We’re going to come out and put our heart into it and just… kill ‘em,” she said.

SUMMARY

St. Helens 1, Sandy 0

Sandy High School

STHE 000 000 01 - 1 4 0

SAND 000 000 00 - 0 4 1

St. Helens

Hits (4): Strawn, Sass, Ashley Geisbers, Finch

RBI (1): Ashley Geisbers

Run (1): Leal

WP: Mariah Mulcahy (8 IP, 4 hits, no walks, 11 strikeouts)

Sandy

Hits (4): Byron, Turin 2, Welch

LP: Sammie Byron (8 IP, 4 hits, 3 walks, 5 strikeouts)