High school softball: 2013 Deseret News MVPs led, inspired their teams to considerable success

Published: Wednesday, June 19 2013 8:52 p.m. MDT

5A: ASHLEY CLAYSON, Copper Hills Next » 1 of 4 « Prev
Copper Hills head coach Jentry Jo Johnson could see Clayson was disappointed with the coach’s decision to move her from shortstop to catcher.

“It pained me to move my all-star, all-state shortstop, where many balls are hit, to catcher,” said Johnson. “But the catcher touches every single ball, and we were struggling a little so I went with my gut. ... We just didn’t have that direction on the field. I put Ashley in that first game and it was like an aha moment. The field was being directed; there was communication; there was a voice present out there and it was undeniable.”

The team was playing in a preseason tournament in St. George when Johnson made the switch. While Clayson never complained, Johnson could see the disappointment on the senior’s face.

“I approached her, rather than let it fester, and said, ‘I know you’re not very happy about this. I can tell by the look on your face. But I need to see if this is going to be best for the team.’ And she said, ‘I know coach, and at least I’m playing.’”

Not only did Clayson’s demeanor change, but she embraced the challenge so completely, Johnson was blown away.

“She’s got one of the strongest arms I’ve ever seen on a softball player,” said Johnson. “You don’t see her tenacity as much behind the plate, but she is just very, very athletic.” Clayson is also a talented hitter, and that’s often where her determination shines.

“In the batter’s box, she carries such a presence with her that, honestly, I would hate to face as a pitcher,” said Johnson, a former pitcher who played at Hillcrest and Southern Utah University. She recalled an at-bat against one of the state’s best pitchers, Bingham’s Paige Reimann, in which Clayson took 21 pitches before earning a walk.

“That kind of batter can really wear you down and just defeat a pitcher,” she said. “She just carries the aspect of a great athlete.”

Clayson will play for SUU, and she will wear No. 11, the number Johnson wore when she played for the T-birds. She finished the season with a .462 batting average and a .670 slugging percentage. She earned 33 RBIs and 41 hits, including three home runs.

Clayson’s leadership was especially critical in the second half of the season when sophomore pitcher Payten Davies emerged as the team’s go-to pitcher. Johnson said that sometimes before she could even ask for a timeout, Clayson was conferring with her pitcher and teammates.

“She was already on it, prepping them, giving them confidence,” said Johnson. “She is just the kind of leader that all of my girls look to.”
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