The Stansbury softball team has established itself as one of the premier programs in Utah, and the Stallions have all the pieces in place to reach that level again in 2017.
It might just look a little different this time around.
The Stallions’ lineup is based more on “small ball” this season than it has been in years past, but solid pitching has been a constant — and such is the case again this year, with junior Makayla Witkowski in the circle for her second season as Stansbury’s primary pitcher.
Witkowski’s arsenal was on display Friday against Hunter, when she threw a two-hitter in a 2-0 win.
“Toward the end of the game, a couple of them were starting to pick up on [my curveball],” Witkowski said. “Me and [catcher Kaeley] Loader decided to switch off and try to work the inside screwball, which seemed to work pretty well. My curveball and my screwball were what I threw most of the time. I threw my rise sometimes, but the curveball was definitely my go-to pitch.”
Witkowski hadn’t allowed a run in 11 innings through the first two games of the season, and recorded 14 strikeouts against just three walks in wins over Brighton and Hunter. She went 18-8 as a sophomore, posting a 2.87 earned-run average with 166 strikeouts and 27 walks.
“Makayla threw a good game [Friday],” Stansbury coach Bridget Clinton said. “She was great. She’s dominant.”
The Stallions have six seniors on this year’s roster, four of whom were regulars in 2016. Outfielder Kambree Christiansen hit .289 last season with four doubles, three triples, one home run, five stolen bases and 22 RBIs, and made just two errors in the field. Aly Oxborrow hit .237 with 15 RBIs, while Rylee Ricks put up a .976 fielding percentage at first base and Bailey Christensen was solid in spot duty. Ricks started Friday’s game at third base and Christensen was at first.
Ashley Thompson saw action in nine games last year and was the Stallions’ primary reserve pitcher, and Kaylecia Humphrey is in her first season on the varsity squad this year.
The Stallions are looking to replace two of their top hitters — and the left side of their starting infield — from last year after Anjalee Batchelor and Alyssa Guymon graduated after posting a combined 31 extra-base hits as seniors. Junior Lindsey Allie, who hit .448 last season with nine doubles, two triples, a home run and 15 stolen bases, remains at the top of the batting order and has moved from second base to shortstop.
“I’m excited,” Clinton said. “Every year’s a new look — new infield, new outfield — it’s what happens every year. We’ve had good players every year and we’re always replacing them, but they always step up. We’re young, but we’ve got a lot of experience. They work hard every single day. That’s just what we do.”
Junior catcher Kaeley Loader is the Stallions’ top returning power threat, having hit .440 with five home runs, seven doubles and three triples as a sophomore.
“Every year’s always different, but I think the main thing for us is just ‘whatever works, works,’” Witkowski said. “Our theme this year is ‘more than a team,’ and I think that everyone has really thought about that and taken it to heart. Relax — it’s a game and you’re having fun, but do your part at the same time.”
The Stallions, who played Copper Hills on Tuesday in a game that was not complete at press time, will open the 2017 Region 10 season April 6 at Park City after a challenging preseason slate that includes games against Manti, Spanish Fork, Bear River and Lehi.