Former Tooele softball player Mercy DeRyke had to work her way up the ladder to earn a spot on the Buffaloes’ varsity roster as a junior, showing immense growth as a player along the way.
Earlier this year, that hard work paid off for the Buffs’ starting second baseman, as she signed a national Letter-of-Intent to play at Colorado Northwestern Community College in Rangely, Colorado.
“Going into high school really helped me improve as a player,” DeRyke said. “My freshman year, I was only on the frosh team, and my sophomore year I made JV. Then, we got new coaches our junior and senior year, and they helped me improve a ton. I was playing different positions, and now I’m really confident in the position I play. They helped me a lot with my confidence and helped me become a better player — and college-ready.”
DeRyke saw some varsity playing time as a sophomore, making 26 plate appearances in 22 games. Her junior year, she earned a starting spot and hit .279 with five doubles, two home runs and 20 RBIs. Her batting average dipped to .212 as a senior, but her steady play at second base helped anchor the right side of the Buffs’ infield. She committed just two errors during the season, and drew the interest of Colorado Northwestern coach Ken DeCook.
“I was looking for a college to go to that was close to home,” DeRyke said. “I started looking in-state, and nothing really happened, so I started looking at (other) states that were really close, and I saw Colorado Northwestern, so I went on a visit. I really liked the coach and I like how small everything is and how close everything is. He offered me a scholarship and it’s only four hours away from home, so that was a big part in my decision.”
DeRyke is one of four players from her graduating class who will go on to play college softball, joining fellow THS graduates Payton Hammond (Utah Valley University), Blake Hervat (Snow College) and Sydney Turnbow (Otero Junior College). She said having those kinds of teammates made everyone better.
“As teammates, they really helped you step up your game and helped you be the best for the team,” DeRyke said.
The pressure that comes with playing at Tooele High also helped her grow as a player.
“Coming in as a freshman, you’re really scared because the coaches have never seen you before,” DeRyke said. “They’ve won state championships before and you’re really nervous. I think knowing that Tooele has been good makes you want to be better because living with the legacy of the girls that have won state championships, that’s what you want to do and you want to work hard and keep that legacy going.”
DeRyke is one of 14 signees who will join the CNCC program — and one of three from Utah, joining Brianna Fryer (American Fork) and Jayla Weston (Emery). Only four players from the Spartans’ 2018 roster will return next season, giving DeRyke the opportunity to grab the second-base position she held for Tooele the past two seasons.
Her goal is to get as much playing time as she can while also focusing on doing the best she can academically, she said.