Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
Naming the state's perennial softball powerhouses is easy.
But predicting which of those teams might turn out to contend for a title — or if it will be a newcomer — is much more difficult this season.
"To be really honest, I don't even know," said Bingham head coach Mikki Jackson, when asked what to expect from this season. "With us in a new region, it's just a whole different feel. It's all new to us."
The Miners were not voted No. 1 in preseason polls, but they've taken over the top spot thanks to consistently good play.
She said the players worked hard in the offseason which gave them confidence that has only continued to evolve as the season's progressed.
"The team is growing in themselves, learning what they're capable of," said Jackson. "As they do so, they continue to set higher standards for themselves. They've ccomplished things I don't think they thought they could do."
The Miners are led by junior pitcher Paige Reimann, senior pitcher Keagan Hanny, Shae Ibrahim, Whitney Littledike, Dakota McDaniel and Danielle Soffe.
Syracuse was voted the preseason No. 1 for good reason. Returning pitcher Taylor Tann is back in the circle for the Titans, and she finished the season with a .467 batting average. Junior Courtney Starks, who helped the basketball team to a 5A title and undefeated season, returns as a first baseman and outfield.
"We return five starters from last year's team, and if our young players grow up, we could contend for a region title," said head coach Kelly Anderson.
The Titans have struggled through a tough preseason, but should be in the mix come playoff time. Jackson said the team that wins the title may just be the team with the best pitching staff.
"I keep looking at it, and I think it's going to team that has the best pitching," she said. "I think pitching is holding back some of the teams that have capabilities but not really a consistent pitcher."
That's why Weber was voted into the top five, and has stayed there with a 10-0 preseason record — pitcher McKenna Bull.
"You have to put respect there," said Jackson.
Some of the other teams that will likely compete are Layton, Hunter, Copper Hills, Davis, Lone Peak and Riverton.
"We have many returning players who will play a major role in our team's success," said Riverton head coach Emily Bateman.
Alta has broken into the top five thanks to solid pitching by Ashley Kay. The team has key contributions from Maylen Ames, Ivy Cantwell, McKenzie Dangerfield and Jamie Fidler.
Roy may have lost Ms. Softball, MaCauley Flint, but coaches clearly feel they'll be in the mix for another state title with the play of Jamie Aiken, Jordynn Barrera, Bryce Mitchell, Payton Palmer and Caylie Phelts.
"We should be strong and talented," said Royals head coach Mandy Koford. "Lots of offense and a good defense."
Murray enjoys veteran leadership and hopes to improve on its second-place finish in 5A last year. The team is led by senior pitcher Elise Johnson, senior Nicole Durfey, sophomore Kayla Durfey, and sophomore outfielder Emily Adams.
Mountain Crest was voted No. 3 in preseason polls, but the Mustangs have already earned some impressive preseason wins.
Head coach Mike Anderson said the team is hungry to challenge Roy for that region title after finishing third in the state last year. He believes playing in the same region as perennial powers Roy, Box Elder and Bonneville will prepare them well for postseason challenges.