After an early exit from the 3A State Softball Tournament last year, the Grantsville Lady Cowboys are back on top!
In a commanding 10-0 victory in five innings over North Sanpete in the championship game, Grantsville claimed the title, going 5-0 and only giving up three runs the entire tournament. With the victory, the Lady Cowboys now own six state titles (1998, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2021 and 2023).
Senior Chloe Bytheway pitched a no-hitter and led the team in RBIs in the championship game.
In the opening round of pod play, Grantsville beat Ben Lomond 21-0 before taking down South Summit 16-0. In the quarterfinals, they defeated Carbon 4-3, and in the semis, they prevailed over North Sanpete 3-0.
During their entire play off run, the Cowboys outscored their opponents 54-3.
Coach Tony Cloward praised his team, coaching staff and the Grantsville softball community as contributing factors to the Cowboys’ dominant performance.
“These girls are talented, focused, mature and understand the nature of the game. Nothing ever got too big for them. Even when we were tied 3-3 with Carbon in the quarterfinals, they just kept playing and didn’t let the pressure get to them.”
“Our success as a program is a combination of several factors,” Cloward explained. “First, we’ve had top-notch players for years.
“Our girls don’t just show up at high school and pick up a softball for the first time. We have had dads and coaches in our community who have been stepping up for years and coaching girls in the off season. Big props to our local rec program and community for building softball players!”
Cloward added that the community does a great job of getting the kids involved and playing softball when they are young.
“The second factor that helped our kids dominate this year were the eight senior players that we had on the field for 99% of the innings,” he said. “These girls are so good — all of them!”
‘Our rock-solid seniors’
Cloward continued by asserting that his core players held the team together throughout the year.
“Zoey Cloward, first base; Chloe Bytheway, pitcher; Addy Butler, catcher; Brylee Castagno, second base, Madison Bolinder, third base; Kenzie Allen, short stop; Sophia Crosby, left field; and Ellie Thomas, center field were our rock-solid seniors who led the way,” he said. “Junior Avery Lee along with other underclassmen rotated in to play right field.
“Their maturity level combined with their skill and desire were critical to our success.”
“Our coaching staff prepares the girls for all phases of the game,” Cloward shared as his third factor in how his team dominated the field so quickly and completely. “We set goals as a team to be good defensively, to hit the ball well, and to have great pitching. Our skills just don’t happen.
We spent a great deal of time practicing them all, including hitting, and it showed.”
“As a team they batted over .400 this year, and they were five shy of breaking the state record of 99 doubles hit in a single season with 94,” Cloward continued. “Looking back, I’ve never had a team offensively like this team. No one has hit the ball like this year.”
The fourth way the Cowboys have built their dominance was by playing challenging teams throughout the season, and the last two weeks of the regular season they faced great teams with impressive pitchers who are headed to Division I schools in Utah.
“We played Bear River and their pitcher is headed to BYU,” Cloward said. “Herriman’s pitcher is going to Weber, and Spanish Fork’s ace is headed to UVU.”
“We play harder competition to prepare for our level of competition, and it showed in how our girls played and handled the pressure at state. We may sacrifice our record to prep for state. Our four losses this year came against Box Elder, Herriman, Spanish Fork and Ridgeline, all 4A, 5A and 6A teams, but these tough games prepared us well,” Cloward remarked.
“Once again, I point to the maturity of our seniors,” he repeated. “When you are young, the pressure gets to you, but these girls are seasoned athletes and are not new to pressure. I have girls who have won state tennis titles, state wrestling titles and competed in the state basketball finals. These girls have had experience dealing with championship level pressure this year. It is one of the benefits I have of coaching a spring sport. I have to give a lot of props to the other sports for helping develop my athletes!”
Cloward also praised his four assistant coaches: Blake Stringfellow, Shawn Allen, Tori Brooks and Matt Mecham.
“They are so good. I don’t really deserve any of the credit because they do such a great job.” Each coach worked with a different area and added to the team’s success. Stringfellow, a THS grad and college softball player, worked with the pitchers while Allen was in charge of the offense and coached third base.
Brooks, an Alta high alum and college softball player as well, was the statistician and back up athletic trainer while Mecham, Cloward explained, was “my right hand man, my utility coach and our varsity announcer.”
With great community support, talented coaches, a tough schedule and superb players who love the game and are dedicated to excellence, the Cowboys completed their commanding performance and brought back the title to Grantsville.
With eight seniors graduating, some may wonder about next season.
“Don’t worry,” Cloward said. “We’re going to be okay for a while; our JV and Frosh teams each played 20 games this season and only lost two games apiece.”
From the first preseason Deseret News poll, to the final pitch, the Cowboys were ranked No. 1 in the state for 3A softball.
For many teams it is hard to play with a target on their back, when every team brings their best trying to pick off the top-ranked squad, but the Cowboys were unfazed throughout the season.