At the beginning of last week, there were four Lehi-area high school teams that had survived through the grueling spring season and early playoff rounds to remain in contention for their respective state titles.
None of them ended up achieving their ultimate goal of capturing a gold trophy, but three of them played all the way to the end to claim the silver one, and the fourth one nearly did. Those are achievements still worthy of recognition.
Let’s start with the Skyridge softball team. Undefeated in league play, the Falcons entered the tournament as the Region 4 champion and seeded No. 3 in the final RPI rankings.
In the first round of bracket play, they managed to put together a tough victory over No. 7 West, but then they had to face No. 2 Herriman to earn a spot in the championship series.
Skyridge played the Mustangs in the last game of the regular season. The Falcons didn’t beat them then and couldn’t find a way to get past them in two contests during the playoffs either. So, they finished in the Final 4, exactly where their seed and ranking suggested they belonged.
Nobody wants to hear it after they’ve just suffered a dream-dashing disappointment, but the fact of the matter is, there’s no shame in losing to a better team. Skyridge’s players went as far as their abilities would take them, and they can be justly proud of that accomplishment.
The story for the Falcon boys soccer team was a little different. Despite having a relatively young squad, they started the year on fire with seven straight wins. Then the injury bug bit and the team lost four of the next five games in highly competitiveRegion 4 before finding its footing again.
Skyridge finished a solid third in the league standings. The Falcons were awarded a No. 6 seed in the final RPI rankings and so got a pass in the first round. They topped No. 11 Bingham with ease and then upset No. 3 Fremont on the road nearly as comfortably to advance.
That’s when it got harder. The semifinal opponent was No. 7 Pleasant Grove, which had split with Skyridge during the leagueseason. The match itself was nothing short of bizarre, with two weather delays leading to a move indoors that sapped the feel of a state-level game.
On top of that, the teams were knotted at the end of regulation and both overtimes, bringing on a shootout. Hours after the contest started, the teams finally finished with the Falcons prevailing by the narrowest of margins 4-3 in the shootout.
Then it was on to the final, where they faced another team that was not supposed to be there, No. 12 Syracuse. The squads battled to a draw for all but 70 seconds of the match, during which the Titans got their two goals.
That’s just how it goes in soccer sometimes and that’s part of the nuances of the sport. Most of the Falcons will be back for another try next year.
That brings us to the baseball teams. Skyridge finished seeded No. 10 last season and got knocked out in the Super Regionals. This season, the Falcons came soaring into the playoffs at No. 1 and got all the way to the Final, where they were supposed to be.
However, no one was fooled by American Fork’s No. 7 seeding. The 2021 champs reached the title series last year too and all of that playoff experience certainly helped during the moments when emotions during these games reached fever pitch.
Two of them came down to a single run, and the Cavemen just happened to prevail in the one that made the difference in thefinal outcome.
It didn’t help that the Falcons lost junior Ike Pickle to injury in the first game of the series. He led the team in batting average, on-base percentage and hits, and was also second in slugging percentage and third in RBI. A player like that can make a difference at the plate in a tight game and his loss on the field hurt too.
That brings us to Lehi baseball. This was a team that graduated a significant cohort of seniors from last year’s state championship squad. The Pioneers finished fourth in rugged Region 8 behind three programs ranked in the state top 5.
They still got a No. 4 seed from the RPI, reflecting their difficultschedule. They then, literally, worked their way through the playoffs. The first three games were relatively easy but there were still six games to play after that and none of those were gimmes.
The toll is obvious when you have to start a sophomore, even a very able one, on the bump against a strong team in the title final. In the end, they just lost to a better opponent, thus bringing the school year to an official close.
Due to the anomalies of Utah prep sports schedules, all of the senior soccer and baseball players graduated before their last games. And even though they may not have gotten the ending to their high school careers that they were hoping for, two facts should quickly help restore a sense of perspective.
First, all the other schools that got left behind on the way would gladly have carted off that silver trophy if they’d had the chance.
Second, think about the seniors of 2020.
At least you got to play.