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.”
Among the 4A contenders are Bountiful, Bonneville, Murray, Herriman, Salem Hills, Provo, Springville and Olympus. One surprise is East, which got off to a 7-1 start this spring.
The Bear River Bears are very familiar with the pressure of being a favorite.
“I did notice down in St. George any time somebody played us, they were excited about the challenge of trying to beat us,” said Bears head coach Calvin Bingham. “People recognize we’ve done well for a while.” Still, he believes the race for this year’s 3A title is wide-open.
“I think it’s going to be an exciting race,” he said. “I think we’ll be one of the teams that will have a chance, if we get settled on a starting line-up.” He’s grateful that some of the toughest competition will come from his own region, including Grantsville.
“You have to appreciate good competition because when you win it makes it a lot more meaningful,” he said. The Bears are led by 3A MVP Jordan Theurer, who tried to pitch against Stansbury after suffering from kidney stones.
The team that battled the Bears for the title, Spanish Fork, was voted No. 2, and Juan Diego, Snow Canyon, Stansbury, Grantsville, Payson and Wasatch could all be in the mix this season.
Soaring Eagle pitcher Maddie Davis is 5-0 this season, while Grantsville is winning with three pitchers, including 3-0 Whitney Fields.
In the state’s smallest classification, it was Manti that coaches voted the No. 1 team. But just like her counterparts in the larger classifications, Manti head coach Susan Hatch sees quite a few teams with a chance to win that 2A title.
“I think it’s tough,” she said of the 2A race. “There are some really good teams all throughout the state. I think it’s anybody’s game. There are a bunch of teams that could be there.”
Manti is led by pitcher Lizzy Palmer, and Hatch points out that there are no seniors in the starting line-up.4 comments on this story
One of the most likely teams to be battling for the championship is perennial power San Juan. Pitcher Tatianna Su’e Su’e has a 5-1 record against very good competition. She also has three home runs.
In addition to San Juan and Manti, South Summit, South Sevier, Emery and Gunnison are all off to great starts and will likely be in the mix for top honors.