Tooele County has long been a hotbed for high-school softball talent, and over the past few years, few stars have shone brighter than Tooele infielder Payton Hammond.
As a four-year starter for the Buffaloes, Hammond became one of the state’s most complete players with solid play in the field, a powerful bat and strong leadership skills. Those attributes led Utah Valley University to offer her a scholarship last fall, allowing Hammond to add her name to the list of Tooele County softball players to play at the Division I level in college. She also credited her time playing with her club team, the Firecrackers, for helping give her the exposure she needed for UVU to notice her talents.
“We travel all over to big showcases and a lot of national tournaments, and we actually ended up winning the PGF last year,” Hammond said of the Firecrackers. “I got my scholarship right before that, but I think my traveling team gave me the opportunity to get it.”
Hammond made an immediate impact as a freshman for the Buffs in 2015, hitting .337 with two home runs and 15 RBIs while playing mostly at first base. By the time she was a senior, Hammond’s batting average and power had greatly improved. She hit .514 in her final high-school season, including nine home runs and 39 RBIs. For her career, she hit .428 with 21 home runs, 24 doubles, five triples and 95 RBIs in 104 games, according to statistics available online at MaxPreps.com.
“It’s fun to see,” Tooele coach Marissa Lowry said following the Buffs’ state tournament run in May. “She’s worked hard and it’s fun for anyone to go on to play college ball.”
Hammond is the latest in a line of Tooele products to make her way to the Utah Valley University softball program. Tooele native Sydney Cluff just completed her eligibility at UVU this past spring, as did Lauren Frailey Spendlove. Hammond said she is looking forward to adding to that legacy, as well as forging one of her own.
“A lot of hard work has paid off, and it’s an indescribable feeling of, ‘I earned this,’ and now I get to keep working to better myself and make sure I can play when I go there and fill the role that they have for me at UVU,” Hammond said. “TJ (Hubbard) is an excellent coach and I can’t wait to play for him, but also, I get to stay close to home. This is as much my parents’ dream as it is mine, so it’s nice that they can come and support, too. I’m also far enough away that I don’t have to come home or they can’t just pop up out of nowhere.”
With the number of softball players from the area who go on to play college ball — Hammond was one of four players on this year’s Tooele roster to sign with a college — the rivalry between Tooele, Stansbury and Grantsville only serves to make everyone better, Hammond said.
“I don’t know if it’s something in the water,” she said. “It’s probably just the years of everyone building off of each other and knowing the expectations of what needs to be done and what we should hold ourselves accountable to. Tooele, Grantsville and Stansbury — we all have a dominant program, and it’s because we all want to one-up each other. In the end, we all have grown up playing with each other, so we all want to see each other succeed as well.”
Hammond plans to study exercise science at UVU, though she is undecided on a career path at this point.