Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Tooele softball team went nearly two years without playing a game.
While that means that the Buffaloes couldn’t defend their Class 4A state championship in 2020, it also means that they’re still the reigning champs. That serves as motivation for a talented senior class loaded with college-bound talent that is eager to add to Tooele’s already-loaded trophy case.
“Things are looking really good,” Tooele coach Marissa Lowry said. “We’re seeing a lot of great things. We have a strong senior class, which is fun to see. They’ve put in the work in the offseason, so we’re just kind of putting it together and seeing good results from it.”
The Buffs claimed their 10th state championship in 2019 with six sophomores playing a major role. Those six sophomores — Kate Hogan, Madi Baker, Attlyn Johnston, Emma Higley, Paige Rydalch and Kennedie Anderson — make up the core of this season’s team as seniors, where they are joined by fellow senior Lizbeth Garcia. Not surprisingly, they’re leading an early-season surge that has seen the Buffaloes outscore their first four Region 10 opponents 57-0.
“We didn’t even get to play a game last year,” Lowry said. “They’ve been hungry since the day the season got canceled last year. I can see it in their eyes, knowing that they have the fight and knowing what our end goal is.”
Anderson leads the Buffaloes with a .467 batting average (14-for-30) through nine games. She has four doubles, a triple, two home runs and a team-high 14 RBIs. Hogan and Baker are both hitting .464 (13-for-28), with Baker hitting four doubles and two home runs and driving in 11 runs from the leadoff spot. Hogan has a double, a triple, a home run and nine RBIs.
Johnston, a Dixie State University signee, has become a threat at the plate in addition to her pitching prowess. She is hitting .423 (11-for-26) with a double and two home runs. In the circle, she has a 3.09 earned-run average in 34 innings pitched, with 72 strikeouts and 16 walks. Opposing batters are hitting just .220 against her this season.
The Region 10 schedule looks favorable for the Buffaloes. While two of their wins have come against struggling programs in Ben Lomond (20-0) and Juan Diego (17-0), Tooele has also picked up convincing victories over traditional powers Stansbury (10-0) and Uintah (10-0).
“That’s been our goal all year — to get into these ballgames and do the little things and take care of business,” Lowry said. “Every game, we can learn something and continue to build on the skills that we need.
“I think it’s just important to continue to build on what we’ve been doing, but work on the little things,” she added. “Hopefully, good things will come from it.”
The win over Stansbury was a 4-0 game until the Buffs scored six runs in the top of the seventh inning, and the Uintah game ended after five innings because of the 10-run mercy rule.
“Every game, no matter who you’re playing, you need those skills that you’re going to continue to build on, whether you’re playing against Stansbury or Juan Diego,” Lowry said. “Every game matters, and it’s important.”
Those large margins of victory have allowed Lowry to go deep into her bench, giving the Buffs’ younger players some much-needed varsity experience that could pay off come state-tournament time.
“We’ve told our girls from the very beginning that our lineup’s not set,” Lowry said. “We’re going to mess around with it and we’re going to fine-tune it. It’s fun to get into games to see the depth that we have within our team and see what they do and see what they can bring to the table.”