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Stuart Johnson, Deseret News
Sarah Swalberg stands with her team for the national anthem before a first round 1A game with Piute.

GREEN RIVER — When the coach waved at his players to move in, it made the batter a little angry.

It made her teammates laugh.

"Some people wonder why a girl plays baseball," said Justin Johnson, a junior, and Sarah Swalberg's Green River High teammate. "She shows them why. ... She jacked it over their heads, left field I think."

It's hard to say specifically because it's happened more than once in the four years Swalberg has been a starting infielder for the Green River Pirates.

"That happens every year and it's so cool," said senior Jason Johnson, Justin's older brother.

In fact, her teammates don't see her braids as a distraction because they've played with her since Little League.

"She's played with us our whole lives," said Jason, during the 1A baseball tournament last weekend. "It started with T-ball and we've just played together forever."

It was in those Little League games that coach Greg Parsons first saw Swalberg.

"All of the coaches wanted to pick her because they knew she was a good ball player," said Parsons, who also coaches the schools' girls basketball team. "There was no question when she got to high school that she'd be playing baseball. She's always been one of the better players. She has a good knowledge of the game."

Swalberg, who is also the point guard on the Pirates girls basketball team as well as a state-record-holding javelin thrower, just loves to play sports.

"When I was little my best friend was a boy and he played baseball," said Swalberg. "I loved it so I just kept on playing it."

Sarah said that aside from some strange looks when she first steps off the bus, she hasn't had too many negative experiences.

"Sometimes they think I'm the manager," said the second baseman. She doesn't mind the stares most of the time, but when a coach moves his outfield in, she'll do what she can to make him regret it.

"They just overlook a girl," she said with a slight grin. "That kind of motivates me that they think a girl couldn't do it."

And while other girls have played baseball, especially in 1A because it's played in the fall when the other girls sports are volleyball, soccer, tennis or cross country, no one can remember a girl being named to the Academic All-State team. Swalberg, who has a 3.9 GPA, accepted Academic All-State honors on Saturday with 1A's other honorees.

"I have just grown up with all these boys," she said. If 1A schools participated in softball, Swalberg said she'd probably have switched to softball after Little League.

"I probably would have because then I could do something in college," she said. On whether she prefers basketball or baseball, she smiles.

"It depends on the season," she said.

Sarah is the fourth of Laurie and Eugene Swalberg's five daughters. And while neither parent played sports, all of the girls have played multiple sports for Green River High.

"Living in a small town, that's the kind of opportunity they have," said Laurie. "If you're interested in playing sports, you can pretty much be on the team."

Sarah and her mom said the boys on the team have been very accepting of her.

"She's just blended right in with the boys," Laurie said.

As for changing into uniforms, Sarah said she either waits outside or goes to the front of the bus while her teammates change in the back.

"They just make it work," said Laurie.

Her parents and coach also have no reservations about her ability to play with the boys — at bat or in the field.

"I don't worry about it because she can hold her own," Laurie said.

Adds her father, "None of the other kids have ever taunted her. ... In fact, it's been the opposite. Umpires come out, take her aside and encourage her. She's gotten a lot of positive attention from other coaches and umpires."

Parsons said some of Swalberg's success has come because she works so hard.

"She's just a really good kid," he said. "She's very friendly, outgoing, and she's a hard worker. She's been a leader for the team this year. She's a girl I could tell my own girls, 'that's the kind of person you want to be.'"

e-mail: adonaldson@desnews.com