If recent history wasn’t enough of an indication, with Stansbury and Grantsville combining to win five state championships in the past six years, the past week has only served to confirm that Tooele County is home to the best high school softball Utah has to offer.
Last Wednesday, Tooele’s Attlyn Johnston and Grantsville’s Bailey Frischknecht were locked in a pitcher’s duel, ultimately won by Johnston’s Buffaloes by a 3-1 score. Tooele came into the game ranked No. 2 in Class 4A by the big-city media, with Grantsville ranked No. 1 in Class 3A. It was the kind of game you would expect from two of the top teams in the state, regardless of classification.
Then came Monday, when Grantsville hit the road to face Class 4A No. 1 Spanish Fork. Again, Frischknecht was at her very best, showing that there is no spotlight too bright for her in one of the Cowboys’ biggest games of the season. The result? Grantsville beat the Dons 2-1 at the Spanish Fork Sports Complex, the very same place the Cowboys will look to win a third consecutive state title next month.
To recap: Tooele beat Grantsville, who beat Spanish Fork. Tooele came in ranked No. 2 in Class 4A, behind Spanish Fork. Who deserves to be ranked in the top spot? Tooele certainly strengthened its argument, though I’m sure the Buffaloes are more focused on making that statement in a little over a month at the state tournament.
Tooele and Grantsville are a combined 19-1 against in-state competition this season, not including their head-to-head matchup. Grantsville suffered a one-run loss to Class 4A Cedar after a long bus ride to southern Utah in the season opener, though Tooele beat Cedar 4-0 later that same weekend at a tournament in St. George. So, again — Tooele beat Cedar, who beat Grantsville, who beat Spanish Fork.
Of course, bragging rights in April don’t mean as much as holding up the big trophy in May. Until next season, when the Utah High School Activities Association switches to a Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) model for seeding state tournaments, in-season rankings don’t really mean anything at all. But it’s hard to argue against Tooele as one of the top contenders in Class 4A this year.
As for Grantsville? I’d like to see the Cowboys play Cedar again, now that they’re firing on all cylinders. The Cowboys might very well be the second-best team in the state behind their county rivals, and it would be nice if they had a chance to prove it. In Class 3A, they’re the prohibitive favorites to win it all yet again, barring injury or other unforeseen circumstances.
Part of that is because there is no clear-cut No. 2 team in 3A. Last year’s runner-up, Union, got run-ruled by Manti earlier this season, and lost to a Pleasant Grove team that has lost to both Grantsville and Spanish Fork. Grand split with both Manti and North Sanpete in Region 15, while Juab beat Grand by one run and lost badly to Class 2A Enterprise and Gunnison.
Grantsville being in the state title game is about as close as it gets to a sure thing. Who the Cowboys will play when they get there is anyone’s guess.
Darren Vaughan is a veteran sports writer from Moab, Utah. He is anxiously awaiting this year’s state softball tournaments, provided that the rain stays far away from Spanish Fork. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.