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High expectations held for

county softball teams

 

By James Tilson

Staff writer

Mar. 29, 2018

 

GUNNISON—Spring brings the beginning of the high school softball season, and in Sanpete County, it brings high expectations for area teams.

All three public high school softball teams made the playoffs last year and are projected to be in the running again this year.

Realignment takes former 2A-power Manti into 3A this year, where the Lady Templars will compete with the North Sanpete Lady Hawks in Region 15.

Both teams carry high hopes and have started well in region play.

The Lady Templars went 18-11 overall and 10-1 in region play last year before making their playoff run.

Meanwhile, the Lady Hawks went 12-15 and 4-4 in region before their playoff stint last year.

Gunnison returns to 2A and is ranked as one of the top 2A teams in the state. The Lady Bulldogs return most of their starters from last year’s playoff team and are poised for another run at the state title.

The Lady Bulldogs went 21-9 overall and 9-1 in their region last year, claiming the region title, before their playoff run.

Gunnison

Tyson Brackett, coach for Gunnison, said pitching will be key for his team to have the same level of success this year as they experienced last year.

Gunnison’s Tayler Brackett swings as North Sanpete’s Aubree Ison catches in their game in Gunnison on Wednesday, March 21.

The eight returning starters from last year’s team on board will use their experience to push the Lady Bulldogs to their goal.

The one graduating senior, however, was a good one. Jerusha Miner, who now plays for McCook Community College in Nebraska, had started for the Lady Bulldogs since she was a freshman. She was a steady influence at the plate, and Brackett said he is looking for many players to step up and fill her role.

After the realignment of high schools, Gunnison began the year ranked as one of the top two or three teams in 2A softball this year. And their start in region play has confirmed that opinion.

After facing higher classification teams in nonregion play, leading to a 4-5 record overall, the Lady Bulldogs start their 2A Central Region season 2-0, good for first place in the region at the spring break.

Manti

This year also brings high expectations for Manti’s softball team, one of the top 2A teams last year.

Manti’s Amie Squire pitches against Springville on Wednesday, March 21, in Manti.

But Manti’s coach, Susan Hatch, knows that each year brings different challenges, and each team will be a little different: “Although the majority of my players are back from last year, each year brings on a new chemistry.”

The Lady Templars lost two seniors from last year’s playoff team, Meg Larson and Reggie Johnson. According to Hatch, “Meg’s speed was effective for our team, [and] Reggie was a great hitter.”

But with six returning starters, the Lady Templars have a host of experience and veteran talent to lead the team into 3A for the first time.

After struggling with their nonregion schedule, coming in at 2-6 overall, the Lady Templars are 2-1 in Region 15, good enough for third place in the region.

North Sanpete

Landon Bailey, North Sanpete’s first-year coach, takes over a talented and experienced team that had playoff success last year.

He admits this puts the onus on this team to perform up to last year’s standards: “We have very high expectations for this year.”

North Sanpete’s Laynie Gillins bats as Gunnison’s Jaida King catches in their game in Gunnison on Wednesday, March 21.

Even though the team graduated four seniors, Bailey will still have a veteran team.

Bailey lists as his top returners three seniors: outfielder Laynie Gillins, pitcher Lexie Olson and outfielder Brooke Price, whom Baileys says are “great leaders.” Also among his top returners are two juniors: catcher Aubree Ison and second base Kelby Henry, along with underclassmen pitchers Nakiah Taylor, Ellie Gillins and Gracie Christiansen.

Bailey said, “If we work hard and stay together, we should be able to have a very successful season.”

So far, the Lady Hawks have come roaring out of the gate, with a 9-1 overall record and a perfect 4-0 record so far in Region 15, which is, of course, good enough for first place in the region.