Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
With only one team, Box Elder, earning a region title without a loss, it might seem that squad is a heavy favorite for the 4A title.
“They’re a great team, but is it there’s to lose? I don’t think so,” said Herriman head coach Staci Hemingway. “It’s whoever shows up. I’ve been around the game for quite a while, and sometimes there are dominating teams. I don’t think that’s the case at all this year in 4A. It’s the team that makes the least amount of errors that could win it.”
In fact, she said the lack of “dominating pitching” puts more pressure — or importance depending on one’s perspective — on each team’s defense.
“Because I haven’t really seen a dominating pitcher, from my point of view, I think it really comes down to defense,” Hemingway said.
The only team to navigate region play without a loss is top-ranked Box Elder.
In the other regions, each region champ had a single loss. Region 6 champion Bountiful lost a 1-0 decision to fourth-place Woods Cross, while Herriman lost to second-place Murray in the first round of region play. Because Murray lost two region games, including the second meeting between Herriman and the Spartans, the Mustangs earned the region title outright for the first time in the school’s three-year history.
Region 8 champion Salem Hills lost 4-3 to second-place Provo.
The No. 1 ranked Bees open with Springville, and they have the advantage of one of the best pitchers in 4A in Bailey Reeves. She’s 14-1 this season with eight doubles. She gets a lot of help from Sadie Blacker, who leads the team with seven home runs and nine doubles, Vanessa Quintero, who has five doubles, two triples and a home run this season, as well as back-up pitcher Abigayle Martin, who has an 8-0 pitching record this season.
The Bees' only loss this season came at the hands of third-ranked 5A powerhouse Bingham in a 3-1 loss.
Second-ranked Bountiful starts tournament play with Westlake. Like Box Elder, the Braves are fortunate to have a talented, experienced pitcher in senior Belle Stoddard. In addition to a 21-2 record, she is lethal at bat with 12 doubles and five home runs to lead her team in extra base hits. Payton Hart, Sydney Austin and Cara Mae Fackrell are all key contributors to the team’s success.
Third-ranked Herriman hosts Woods Cross in the first round of the tournament. The Mustangs are led by pitcher Riley Cox, who has a 12-4 record. She’s backed up by Bryce Taylor (3-2), who also hits well with seven extra base hits. Brittany Wood has four home runs, while Gabrielle Gordon and Riley Castro are also critical in the team’s offense.
Fourth-ranked Salem Hills will take on Roy in the tournament’s opening round. The squad is led by pitcher Kirtlyn Bohling, who owns an 18-3 record. The team started the season with two tough losses against a Nevada team and Bingham, and then only suffered that one region loss to Provo.
McKenna Davis, Abbie Tuttle, Amelia Weight and Ashley Whiting are all important contributors for the program.
Fifth-ranked Murray will face the toughest challenge of the top five ranked teams with a young, talented East squad. The Spartans have used four pitchers this season, but rely mostly on Vanessa Brambilla (5-2) and Erin Hohnholt (6-2). The team is led offensively by Emma Noble and Emily Adams.
Other great match-ups in the first round will be Maple Mountain (15-8) at Mountain Crest (15-8) and Bonneville (11-11) at Provo (18-7). The teams all play Tuesday at 4 p.m. with both winners and losers playing again Thursday at 4 p.m.
East (16-8) at Murray (15-9), 4 p.m.
Roy (7-15) at Salem Hills (19-3), 4 p.m.
Springville (15-9) at Box Elder (22-1), 4 p.m.
Olympus (12-12) at Clearfield (10-11), 4 p.m.
Maple Mtn. (15-8) at Mtn. Crest (15-8), 4 p.m.
Westlake (5-17) at Bountiful (20-2), 4 p.m.
Woods Cross (11-11) at Herriman (15-8), 4 p.m.
Bonneville (11-11) at Provo (18-7), 4 p.m.
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