WEST JORDAN With just two seniors in its starting lineup and several talented young players on the roster, it's easy to see that the Copper Hills softball team is on the rise.
The Grizzlies, however, aren't planning to wait for success.
Copper Hills believes it has the pieces in place to contend for the Region 3 championship with the senior leadership of Talisha North and Jade Christiansen, the scorching bat of Linnea Ketcher and solid young talent in sophomores Terysa Dyer and Mackenzy Derrick.
"They've always pictured Copper Hills as the underdog," North said. "This year we're coming out on top."
A few preseason victories, two of which were earned in their final at-bat, have the Grizzlies' confidence soaring.
Copper Hills is 3-0 after blowing out Cottonwood and picking up walk-off wins over Viewmont and Alta. The character-building victories over the Vikings and Hawks were sorely needed for a program that's never finished better than third place in league play.
"It's surprising to everyone that we're winning," North said. "It feels good to be a part of something so good for Copper Hills, and to be a winning team."
At this point, much of the credit for the Grizzlies' success goes to Ketcher, a junior who starts in center field. She is currently the hottest player in the state, as she's batting .909, and has hit in nine consecutive at-bats. She's gotten out only once this season, and it came on a bunt and a close call at first base.
Ketcher went 5-for-5 against Alta, tying the state record for most hits in a single game. Her bat has been phenomenal, but she's been valuable in other areas, scoring seven runs and stealing eight bases.
Second-year Grizzlies coach Shane Lucas said the sky is the limit for Ketcher.
"I think she'll end up being one of the better slappers in the state by the time she's done," he said.
North is the Grizzlies' No. 1 pitcher and has earned the victory in each of Copper Hills' wins. Christiansen, who plays second base, was voted a team captain for her senior season. She provides her team with intangibles that coaches and teammates love.
"She's a hard worker," Lucas said. "She just leads by example. She's one that we couldn't give up on because she works so hard and tries so hard."
Dyer was named to the All-Region 3 team as a freshman. She led the Grizzlies in RBIs, on-base percentage and runs scored last season.
"She'll do whatever we want," Lucas said. "Anything I tell her, she nods her head. If I had 10 of them, I'd be happy."
Copper Hills will have to overcome softball powers Bingham and Riverton, as well as much-improved Hunter in order to win its first region championship. If the Grizzlies can minimize mistakes against those teams, they'll have a shot at making history in their softball program. "We know we can do it," Christiansen said.
Lucas isn't making any guarantees about region championships, but he is confident in his team. The Grizzlies should be good in softball the next few years, and he's just as anxious as his players to start breaking down barriers."We're an up-and-coming program," Lucas said. "Hopefully we arrive this year."