The Tooele softball team hadn’t been outside in more than a week thanks to rainy and snowy weather, and the rust showed at times during Monday’s non-region road game against Cyprus.
Fortunately for the Buffaloes, they had a pair of sophomores — one in the pitcher’s circle and the other at the plate — who helped them overcome those struggles. Attlyn Johnston struck out 12 in a five-hitter and Kate Hogan hit a pair of solo home runs to lead Tooele to a 5-0 win in Magna over the Pirates, giving the Buffs their fifth win in six games leading into Tuesday’s Region 11 opener against Juan Diego.
“It’s been a while, so we’ll give them that much,” Buffs coach Marissa Lowry said. “We’ve just got to continue to make adjustments throughout the game.”
Tooele (5-1) got on the board in the top of the second inning after back-to-back walks by Amber Lujan and Paige Rydalch. Lujan was injured when her left arm was stepped on as she stole second base and was replaced by Bryerly Avina, and Avina and Rydalch both scored on Jocelyn Jenkins’ double down the right field line. Jenkins then scored on an RBI double to right-center field by Natalee Bevan, giving the Buffaloes a 3-0 advantage.
After Johnston struck out the side in the bottom of the second, Hogan blasted a 1-0 pitch from Cyprus pitcher Grace Jenkins over the left-field fence for a leadoff home run to stretch the Buffs’ lead to 4-0. However, Tooele didn’t hit another ball out of the infield over the next three-plus innings, meaning Johnston had to buckle down in the circle.
“Attlyn is Attlyn, and she goes out in the circle and owns it,” Lowry said. “Our hitters have been going out and scoring us runs, which is really good for how young of a team we have.”
Johnston only allowed two baserunners over the next three innings, keeping the Pirates (1-6) at bay. However, Cyprus appeared to have a little momentum going after a leadoff bunt single by Shay McDaniel, a fielder’s choice by Grace Jenkins and a sacrifice bunt by Jaelin Holdaway gave the Pirates runners on second and third with two outs. Despite the rally-in-the-making, Johnston wasn’t rattled, striking out Angel Montoya to end the threat.
Then, it was Hogan’s turn to put an exclamation point on things. She hit the first pitch of the seventh inning deep over the fence in center field for her second leadoff home run of the afternoon, giving the Buffs a little extra cushion.
“It’s really fun to see her step into the box like she has,” Lowry said of Hogan. “For a sophomore to step in and own that spot that she has and to score us runs, we’re proud of her and we couldn’t ask for anything else.”
It looked like Tooele might need that extra breathing room after Bailey Touhuni led off the bottom of the seventh with a double to left and advanced to third on Madelyn Davis’ one-out single to center, but Johnston struck out Brook Giles and McDaniel to bring the game to a close.
The Buffs will now turn their focus to the Region 11 season and Tuesday’s game against Juan Diego. Tooele is favored to capture the region title this season, with Bonneville and Stansbury serving as the Buffs’ primary competition. That said, Lowry would like to see her team continue to improve as the games become more important.
“We’re very young, so obviously we’re going to see some things from our younger kids that we’re going to grow on throughout the season,” Lowry said.