Let it never be said that Tooele County doesn’t take its high school softball and baseball seriously.
Take the local schools’ preseason schedules, for example. Sure, Tooele, Stansbury and Grantsville could fatten up on an assortment of middling Class 3A and Class 2A schools. But they all know that won’t benefit them when there’s a state title on the line.
Instead, they load up on Class 4A and Class 5A competition. And they’re not merely there as cannon fodder for the larger schools. They’re at very least throwing a major scare into the Wasatch Front’s best, if not outright beating them.
A mere look at Stansbury’s 5-3 overall record would have most doing a double-take — these are your three-time defending Class 3A state champions? Yes, actually. Yes, they are. Sure, they’re taking their lumps, as would be expected from a team replacing its pitcher and catcher and a pair of outfielders, with a third outfielder shifting from left field to center. But there are definitely signs that the Stallions will be right there when the state tournament rolls around.
Same with Tooele, which made quite a statement with its season-opening win against Juab. Sure, they got beat by Spanish Fork — but then again, the Dons are clearly the class of Utah high school softball world. The win over Juab says far more about the Buffaloes, as it clearly shows that they’re ready to compete with Class 3A’s best teams.
And Grantsville? Sure, they’re inexperienced. Sure, they’ve made their fair share of mistakes. But counting out the Cowboys? That would be a massive mistake. Once the Cowboys get more games under their belts, look out. Those young players will grow up in a hurry, and they’ll be right there again.
On the baseball side, Stansbury and Grantsville both made massive statements two weekends ago in southern Utah. Stansbury went undefeated at the Dixie High-hosted Pizza Hut Classic, dominating the all-tournament team. Grantsville has rolled to seven consecutive wins, including a sweep at the Panther-Tiger Classic, hosted by Pine View and Hurricane.
Stansbury was the popular pick to bring home the Region 10 title, but the Stallions’ path to the region title will be anything but easy as long as the Cowboys are firing on all cylinders. Remember, Grantsville is only two years removed from winning the state championship, and only lost one player from a team that advanced to the postseason last year. Their strength appears to be their pitching and defense, and good pitching seems to beat good hitting most of the time.
That said, Stansbury’s offense is a force to be reckoned with. The Stallions have the ability to score runs in bunches. And the one thing that can combat strong pitching and defense? An opportunistic offense.
Even over at Tooele, where the Buffs are trying to work in a number of players who lack varsity experience, coach Catham Beer sees reason for optimism. Tooele will take its own fair share of lumps as the Buffaloes try to figure out their roles. But by the end of the season, the Buffs hope to be playing their best ball and maybe make some noise at the state tournament — even if their win-loss record isn’t the flashiest.
Teams like the Tooele baseball squad and Grantsville’s softball team could make things easier on themselves by scheduling weaker competition. They could be sitting there undefeated or with only a loss or two.
But what would that prove? These early-season games mean nothing in the standings, and they won’t affect seeding in the state tournament. That’s what the region schedule is for.
But when the games actually matter, these teams will be able to call upon certain situations from these early-season games and apply them when a crucial region win or a state tournament victory is on the line.
The preseason is nearing its end. Region 10 play will start soon, and all of Tooele County’s teams are battle-tested.
Darren Vaughan is a veteran sports writer from Moab, Utah. He is hoping the schizophrenic spring weather makes up its mind so he can enjoy the sunshine while covering games. Email him at email@example.com.