Tom Smart, Deseret News
Here are pre-season rankings (determined by coaches' votes)
- Copper Hills
- Box Elder
- Bear River
- Spanish Fork
- Juan Diego
- Snow Canyon
- San Juan
Weber was the overwhelming No. 1 pick in preseason polls, and that’s mostly attributable to the return of senior pitcher McKenna Bull. The team also returns veterans Haylee Chugg and Hannah Charlton and will be in the mix of top teams this season.
Even the defending 5A champions are not immune to preseason struggles. After winning their first game against Bonneville, Weber lost two in a row to Taylorsville and Salem Hills, both very talented teams.
“Weber was our first game, but it really means nothing,” said Taylorsville head coach Rich Kaelin. “I think there are some amazing hitters across the state this year. I really think hitters are getting better. The hitting is finally starting to catch up to the pitching. I don’t think we have that dominant pitching out there. Teams are going to have to play good defense, and they’re going to have to hit the ball.”
So far, Taylorsville has been doing that, and it’s allowed them to earn some impressive wins, including one against Bingham.
Taylorsville only lost two seniors, but the key to this year’s success is humility. Kaelin said preseason discussions included weaknesses that each player needed to address, and so far, the girls have responded with hard work and team work. Taylorsville is led by pitcher Jaycie LeBaron, who is 3-0 against some of the state’s top teams.
Bingham was picked in the top five and remains there, thanks in large part to some impressive preseason wins and the return of veteran players. Paige Reimann leads the team with three home runs.
Davis, Viewmont, Alta and Riverton are also squads with the right combinations of talent, experience and leadership. Pitcher Cheyenne Norton leads Davis, while Callie Blackham leads the Hawks' offense with five extra base hits.
Viewmont pitcher Eliza Thornley is 7-1 this season, and Caitlyn Larsen and Riley Tyteca have a combined 18 extra base hits, 10 of which are home runs.
Box Elder was voted the No. 1 preseason pick, but it was by no means unanimous. Bees head coach Mandy Hodgson is okay with that as she sees the 4A race as a wide-open contest.
“There are a lot of really good hitting teams out there,” she said. “I don’t see a heavy favorite. It’s going to come down to who can play defense. Everybody seems to be hitting the ball well.”
The 4A rankings have changed as teams have played tough competition in all classifications, but the Bees remain No. 1. Hodgson said the Bees have the talent to contend for region and state honors, but they are still developing their confidence.
“They need to win some big, close games further down the road so they realize that they can do it,” she said. “They need to trust their hard work.”