The Tooele and Stansbury softball teams both continued their tradition of success through the 2018 regular season, and each earned a high seed as the Class 4A state softball tournament begins with the first-round “pods” on Saturday.
Tooele (22-1-1, 12-0 Region 11) was scarcely challenged throughout the Region 11 schedule, and didn’t lose a game until late April as it built a strong case as one of the favorites in a loaded Class 4A. The Buffaloes will open the postseason Saturday at 10 a.m. against Logan, the fourth-place team from Region 12, at the Deseret Peak Complex. The Buffs and Grizzlies are joined in their pod by Desert Hills, the No. 2 seed from Region 9, and Lehi, the No. 3 seed from Region 10.
Meanwhile, Stansbury (22-6, 10-2 Region 11) earned the No. 2 seed from Region 11, with its only two losses in region play coming against Tooele. The Stallions will meet Mountain Crest, the No. 3 seed from Region 12, at 10 a.m. Saturday at Cedar High School in Cedar City. Region 9 champion Cedar will face Region 12 No. 4 Orem in the other first-round matchup.
Tooele began the season on an 18-game unbeaten streak, with a 13-13 tie against similarly dominant Eagle (Idaho) in the season opener serving as the lone “blemish” for the Buffaloes. They lost to Herriman 13-10 at the Lady Buff Invitational, but have since won five straight heading into Thursday’s nonregion finale against Bingham.
The Buffaloes have an embarrassment of riches in their offensive lineup. Senior Payton Hammond, who has signed to play collegiately at Utah Valley University, boasts a .526 batting average with seven home runs, four doubles, three triples and 33 RBIs. Junior Amber Lujan is batting .568 with six doubles, two home runs and 20 RBIs in 16 games, and senior Emma Jackson is hitting .404 with seven home runs, two doubles and a team-best 34 RBIs. Fellow senior Blake Hervat has a .377 average with four home runs, six doubles, a triple and 27 RBIs.
As good as the Buffs’ upperclassmen are, their underclassmen are just as dangerous. Freshman Madisen Baker is hitting .455 with nine doubles, four home runs and 17 RBIs, and sophomore Bryerly Avina hits .306 with four homers, two doubles and 19 RBIs.
Perhaps the greatest revelation for the Buffs this season has been the emergence of freshman pitcher Attlyn Johnston, who has an earned-run average of 1.22 this season. In a team-best 69 innings, she’s struck out 108 batters and walked just 25, allowing just 33 hits along the way. Opponents are hitting just .133 off of her.
Logan (11-11, 4-6 Region 12) will have its hands full against the Buffs. The Grizzlies’ statistics were not available online at press time, but Tooele and Logan do have some common opponents in Bear River, Ridgeline, Corner Canyon and Bonneville. Tooele went 6-0 against those four teams, while Logan went 1-5 – the lone win came against Corner Canyon.
Stansbury will carry a 13-game winning streak into Saturday’s postseason opener against Mountain Crest. The Stallions hit a bit of a rough patch in the middle of the season with blowout losses to Tooele and Uintah, but have since righted the ship. It helps that Stansbury doesn’t have a player with a batting average below .286.
Senior Lindsey Allie leads the team with a .539 average from the leadoff spot, including 14 doubles and four triples to go with 29 RBIs and a team-best 20 stolen bases. Fellow senior Kaeley Loader is hitting .518 with 13 doubles, four triples, three home runs and a team-best 39 RBIs, while Makayla Witkowski has been on a hot streak as of late and finished the regular season with a .346 average, six doubles and 32 RBIs.
Freshmen Payten Staley (.459, five home runs, 10 doubles, four triples, 36 RBIs) and Maame Johnson (.479, seven doubles, three triples, three home runs, 11 stolen bases, 22 RBIs) have also added some pop to the Stallions’ lineup.
Witkowski is the Stallions’ ace in the pitcher’s circle, going 20-6 this season with a 2.77 ERA. She has 163 strikeouts against 25 walks in 116 1/3 innings, and opponents are hitting just .213 off of her.
The winner of the Tooele/Logan game will play the Desert Hills/Lehi winner in a second-round game at 4 p.m. The losers will meet at 2 p.m. in an elimination game.
Mountain Crest (15-5, 7-3 Region 12) will be far from an easy out for Stansbury. The Mustangs and Stallions each played Kearns, Brighton, Ridgeline and Hunter, with Mountain Crest going 4-1 and Stansbury going 3-1 (both lost to Ridgeline, though Mountain Crest also has a win over the Riverhawks).
In games for which statistics were available, Mustangs junior Haylee Brown hit .480 with five doubles and two home runs, and she is tied with Lindzee Steinmetz for the team lead with 16 RBIs. Brown is also MCHS’ primary pitcher, recording a 4.98 ERA with 80 strikeouts and 40 walks in 78 2/3 innings. Jessica Touchard also saw considerable time in the circle, recording a 4.59 ERA in 21 1/3 innings.
The winner of the Stansbury/Mountain Crest game will meet the Cedar/Orem winner at 4 p.m. The losers will play an elimination game at 2 p.m.
The state tournament will continue May 17-19 at the Spanish Fork Softball Complex.