I know we have the capability of doing great things this year, and I am excited to work with this group of athletes. —Riverton head coach Katelyn Elliot
The landscape of high school softball can shift significantly from season to season as graduation nearly always takes the state’s top players from successful rosters.
This year, many of the top teams return so many of last year’s players that not only should the competition be more unpredictable, the quality of players seems better than ever.
Defending 5A state champion Riverton isn’t even ranked in the top five this season, but that doesn’t mean it won’t contend for both region and state honors.
"I have high expectations for my team this season just as I have every year,” said head coach Katelyn Elliot. “I know we have the capability of doing great things this year, and I am excited to work with this group of athletes.”
Elliot said defending the title will be tough this spring.
“The 5A softball classification will have multiple great teams and talented athletes,” she said, “so we have a lot of work and preparation to do as a team."
Last year’s runner-up West High returns most of last year’s second-place team, including senior Breah Ava and her sophomore sister, Hunter.
"We look forward to another exciting year of softball in the state of Utah and the opportunities that come along with that,” said head coach Keith Lopati. “We have a tough season schedule ahead of us against some great teams. I love the potential that we have all young girls that are experienced who are trying to come out and earn a starting position, and they push everyone. I love the competition that I see also on this team and the potential."
The Panthers boasted one of the most prolific offenses last year, and that shouldn’t change this spring. Senior outfielder Rayna Aiono, junior catcher Aubree Smith, sophomore pitcher Kamora Masina, sophomore pitcher Makayla Ulibarri and sophomore utility player Keisha White will all play key roles in the team’s success this season.
Bingham is currently ranked No. 1 and returns enough talent and experience to be considered one of this season’s favorites. The Miners are led by junior pitcher Nicole Wall, junior infielder McKenzie Reid, senior pitcher and shortstop McKenzie Dorney and senior outfielders Whitnee Webster and Sierra Brown.
"Having only lost one player to graduation, the defending Region III champions are looking to build on last season’s successes in 2017,” said head coach Mikki Jackson. She said the team has a goal “of pushing their skills to another level and ultimately landing amongst the top contenders in 5A.”
Herriman is ranked third and returns a solid core of talent and experience. The Mustangs are led by junior infielder April Visser, senior infielder/pitcher Shayna Alofipo, senior infielder Dayna Hokanson, junior infielder/pitcher Jilian Mercier and sophomore pitcher/outfielder Libby Parkinson.
“Herriman has their starting infield back with some good transfers coming into the mix,” said coach Heidi McKissick. “We are deep in pitching and have good hitters in our lineup.”
Taylorsville is ranked fourth, while Pleasant Grove is ranked fifth. Both teams will be in the mix, along with Syracuse, Copper Hills and Lehi.
Defending 5A state champion Spanish Fork may have lost a lot of talent to graduation, but there is no doubt it retains enough at key positions to contend for another title.
“Lots of new players in new positions will make teamwork a must,” said head coach Don Andrews. “By midseason, if we gel, (we) could be a good team.”
The Dons are led by senior pitcher and last year’s 4A MVP Cambrie Hazel, junior pitcher/infielder/outfielder Jordyn Bate, sophomore catcher/shortstop Brylee Rudd, junior pitcher/third baseman Mallory Barber and junior pitcher/outfielder Brooke Carter.
Second-ranked Springville also returns a solid group of experienced players.
“With a core group of returners, coupled with a large senior class who have gained a lot of experience, we are excited about the upcoming season,” said head coach Jill Thackery. “Despite playing in an extremely difficult region, we are excited to build off of past experiences and look forward to watching our team compete.”
Box Elder is ranked third and should be one of the state’s toughest teams thanks to the solid group returning.
"We are very excited about this season,” said head coach Taleas Marble. “We have a lot of talent and contributing returners that will be great leaders for us this year. We also have some newcomers that will play a big role in our success. Our pitching staff this year is deep and has quite a bit of experience facing tough teams."
The team is led by senior shortstop Taylor Sorenson, senior pitcher Bayleigh Merrill, junior pitcher Nyah DeRyke, junior catcher Mason O’Neal and sophomore outfielder Sydney Blacker. Bonneville is ranked fourth and Bountiful is ranked fifth. Both teams have the players and coaching to contend for region and state titles, along with Alta, Maple Mountain, Corner Canyon and Uintah.
The top-ranked Juab Wasps hope to improve on last year’s second-place finish, but they will have to do so with some new leaders.
The Wasps are off to a 6-1 start behind the hot hitting of Taylei Williams, who is also 5-0 as the team’s pitcher, Kloie Park and Olivia Durbin. Granstville is one of the few top teams that lost most of last year’s starters. Currently ranked second, the Cowboys seem to be doing an admirable job meshing young talent with veteran leadership.
"We are a young team with only four returning starters,” said head coach Heidi Taylor. “Even with our youth we have a lot of talent all over the field, we are excited to see the level of growth we make throughout the season. We will rely on our seniors for their commitment to improving and excelling, they are a great group of ladies who I am more and more proud of each day."
The Cowboys are led by seniors Alese Casper, pitcher/outfield; Reannon Justice, first base; and Maizie Clark, second base.
Bear River is ranked third, and while the team lost five college-bound players, head coach Calvin Bingham said there is plenty of talent to fill those shoes on this year’s roster.
"We have some excellent players coming back,” Bingham said. “Mercedes Call is one of the best hitters to ever play at Bear River. She had a 29-game hitting streak as a freshman and 25 as a sophomore. She hit .465 last year. Kapri Toone was the 3A state MVP last year. She hit .459 last year and hit .733 in state. Linsey will be a three-year starter. Taylor Fox had an outstanding year last year as catcher. Abby Giles has played a lot of varsity ball, so she will be solid both as a pitcher and at first base. Dacia Hobbs had a great year last year, and we expect the same this year."
Tooele and Stansbury are ranked fourth and fifth and will undoubtedly be in the mix come playoff time, as will Union and Juan Diego.
Top-ranked Enterprise lost six seniors to graduation, but Duane Wallin has built a solid feeder program in his nine years with the program that should help the team compete for region and state titles.
The Wolves are led by senior shortstop Lace Drake, senior first baseman Halle Drake, sophomore center fielder Kindy Christensen, senior pitcher/outfielder Gabby Ramos and senior second baseman Tori Phelps.
“We have a good feeder program with girls ready to step up and fill the positions we need filled,” said Wallin. “We should be able to make a run at the title. Our girls love softball.”
South Summit returns seven starters from last year’s third place team, including pitcher Hannah Peterson, who was 2A MVP as a sophomore.
"South Summit will return seven starters from a third-place team in 2016,” said head coach Cody Bowen. “The team will have great senior leadership and experience and hopes to make a deep run in the 2017 season. First team all-staters Hannah Peterson and Elise Bush will lead a powerful and quick lineup that should score a lot of runs."
In addition to Bush and Peterson, the Wildcats will be led by senior Nicole Fitzgerald, senior Sammie Rogers and junior Cassidy Hortin. Beaver not only looks to replace some talent from last year’s lineup, but the Beavers also have a new coach in Dallin Clove.
The team is led by senior pitcher/shortstop JaCoy Christensen and senior shortstop Abbey Yardley.
"With a good core coming back from our team last year we are looking for some of our underclassmen to step into some starting roles to solidify our team,” coach Clove said. “We will be fairly young this year, but with some good talent we are looking to put together a competitive team and to be ready to make a run into the tournament at the end of the year."
Defending 2A state champion Manti is ranked fourth, but its 2-4 record is deceiving as it plays bigger schools in the preseason. Fifth-ranked San Juan is winless, but like Manti, the Broncos play much larger schools, including out-of-state programs, in preparation for a tough region battle.