I hadn’t had a chance to see the Tooele softball team in action this year before Tuesday afternoon, but I had seen the scores. So I knew the Buffaloes were good, but I didn’t know just how good.
After their 12-2 demolition of county rival Stansbury — on the road, no less — it’s clear that the Buffs aren’t just good, but potentially elite. They have it all: pitching, timely offense and solid defense. When you have all three of those elements at the same time, it’s usually a pretty good indicator of future success (see: Stallions, Stansbury, 2013-15; see also: Cowboys, Grantsville, 2017).
Attlyn Johnston may be young, but she’s already showing the kind of maturity you need from your top pitcher in big games. Just wait until she gets even more experience and becomes even better at mixing speeds and pitch locations. It’s going to be a long next few years for Tooele’s opponents with her in the circle.
It also helps that she’s got players like senior Payton Hammond and junior Amber Lujan providing timely hitting. If an opposing pitcher makes any sort of mistake against either one of those two, they’ll make you pay. Whether it’s an opposite-field single or an extra-base hit to the gap, they’ll hit the ball where you aren’t.
And defensively? In recent years, if the Buffs have had one weakness, it has been their struggles in the field. Errors would allow opponents to hang around in games, making things more difficult than they should have been. And while Stansbury didn’t really put Tooele’s defense to the test all that much, the Buffaloes were still able to make the routine plays that weren’t always routine before. If you can play mistake-free softball, you’re going to win a lot more than you lose.
I’m not about to get carried away and give the state title to Tooele — in Class 4A, there are too many good teams capable of winning the whole thing to say that the Buffs’ path will be easy. Whoever wins the 4A title is likely the best team in the whole state, regardless of classification, based solely on the gauntlet they must travel to get there. But will the Buffs be in the conversation? Certainly.
Tooele softball has always been highly regarded. Games like Tuesday’s show why the Buffaloes have earned that reputation. And more games like Tuesday’s will only add to the Tooele legacy.
Darren Vaughan is a veteran sports writer from Moab, Utah. He’s looking forward to state tournament time, even though it’s still almost two months away. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.