On paper, Tuesday’s Utah High School Softball Coaches Association All-Star Game was merely an exhibition — one last chance for the state’s top senior softball players to don their high school jerseys on the diamond.
But for four players from Tooele County, the Class 3A All-Stars’ 11-10 win over their Class 2A counterparts at the Valley Complex in Taylorsville was a chance to come together and show what Region 11 softball is all about.
Tooele’s Alyssa Arslanian was on the same side as Grantsville’s Autumn Dzierzon, Bailey Critchlow and Sydney Barney. Those four, along with Bear River’s Jordan Fitting and Bailey Trapp, were key parts of the win.
“I play with most of them during the summer and I’m going to play in college with them,” Arslanian said. “It was nice to play with them. I love them — they’re like my sisters. I love my Tooele County girls.”
Even the coaching staff had a distinct Region 11 flavor to it. Grantsville’s Heidi Taylor was named the Class 3A Coach of the Year after guiding the Cowboys to the region title. Her assistant coach was Bridget Clinton, head coach of the three-time state champion Stansbury Stallions.
“It was pretty awesome,” Taylor said. “This whole state has so many good coaches. I’m just honored.”
The 3A All-Stars jumped out to a 2-0 lead as Barney hit an inside-the-park home run in the first inning against San Juan star and Weber State commit Tatiana Sue’Sue.
Barney then stepped into the pitcher’s circle and pitched two shutout innings, showing the same form as she did during Grantsville’s impressive season.
Class 3A added to its lead on an RBI groundout by Payson’s Shelby Shurtliff that scored Juab’s McCall Sperry in the top of the third inning. But Class 2A showed its own strength in the bottom of the third with a five-run rally capped by a three-run home run by Emery’s Ashton Bell.
The girls from the larger schools bounced back to retake the lead in the top of the fourth. Union’s Tiffany Zufelt led off with a walk and scored on Bailee Thomas’ double. Thomas scored on the play as a result of a pair of throwing errors, and Dzierzon followed with a two-out, inside-the-park home run down the right-field line that put Class 3A in front 6-5.
The Region 11 girls played a big role in the top of the fifth inning as well. Critchlow hit a leadoff single and scored on a single by Barney, and after back-to-back singles by Dixie’s Airin Lara and Cedar’s Javlyn Weaver led to another run, Fitting reached base on a fielding error that allowed Weaver to score.
Class 3A added another run in the sixth to take an 11-5 lead, but Class 2A came roaring back on a three-run home run by Altamont’s McKelle Zeeman in the bottom of the sixth. Bell added another two-run home run off Critchlow in the bottom of the seventh, but the recent Grantsville graduate struck out the next two batters and got the third to ground out to end the game.
“It was a lot of fun,” Taylor said. “The smaller schools are no slouches. There’s lots of great ballplayers in Utah. It was just fun competition all the way around. They all did a really good job today.”
Arslanian was thrilled at the opportunity to don her Tooele High uniform one last time.
“It’s kind of bittersweet knowing that this is the last time coming out as a Buffalo,” Arslanian said. “It was good. I’m glad I got to represent Tooele.”
Stansbury’s Kilee Christiansen, Jade Callister and Kimbri Herring were named to the Class 3A All-Star team, but were unable to attend. The roster included players from Canyon View, Dixie, Cedar, Juab, Juan Diego, Payson and Union in addition to the participants from Grantsville, Tooele and Bear River.
The Class 2A All-Stars included players from San Juan, South Summit, North Summit, Grand County, Emery, Manti, Gunnison, Millard, Altamont, Parowan, Summit Academy and Delta.