Preparing for the 5A state tournament is no different for the Taylorsville softball team this season, despite the fact that the Warriors will attempt to defend the 5A title they won last spring.
"There is always pressure on us to perform," said coach Rich Kaelin of the perennial powerhouse. "I feel like we're playing well, and I have really enjoyed our last two wins because I feel like we're playing complete games."
The top-ranked Warriors defeated Murray on Friday and Tooele on Saturday, both top teams in 4A. Part of the pressure on Taylorsville is that it lost few players from last year's title team. In fact, 5A MVP Cyd Allen, Utah-bound shortstop Tia Paulani, pitchers Ashley Moore and Heather Gardner and SLCC-bound outfielder/catcher Marqi Gray all return and are all playing well this season.
The Warriors are the only 5A team to escape region play unbeaten, while region champs Spanish Fork, Fremont and Bingham each lost one region game.
"The Bingham/West Jordan (loss) just goes to show you that anything can happen at any time," said Kaelin. "There are some really good teams out there."
One of those is the team Taylorsville beat in last year's state championship game Spanish Fork.
Spanish Fork went most of the season without a loss and then two weeks ago stumbled against a young and vastly improved Pleasant Grove team. The Dons also lost last week to Springville, but the Red Devils are led by one of the state's best pitchers in Sarah Clark and could compete with the best 5A schools.
So while it appears on paper the Dons are struggling, that does not mean the experienced players won't find their way back to the top in the playoffs.
Spanish Fork has three talented pitchers, including Deven Baum, Whitney Holm and Cammie Robinson. The Dons also boast one of the most productive offenses behind the consistent and powerful hitting of Holm, Tina Ferguson, Ashley Chappell and Kaitlyn Elliott, just to name a few.
Region 3 champion Bingham will take on Weber in Tuesday's first round, which is one of the toughest draws of the 5A tournament. Weber has a nice pitching duo in Reilee O'Brien and Chelsea Buttars.
The Miners have two solid pitchers in Tori Almond and Cienna Smith, while seniors Shaynie Phillips and M'liss Peterson lead a solid line-up one through nine.
Region 1 top seed Fremont will take on American Fork in Plain City. Haylee Hoch, MeChel Hunt, Kami Johnson and Maddee Hales are just a few of the players who make the Silverwolves so tough as they have both athletic ability and mental toughness.
"The pitching in (region 1) is tough," Fremont head coach Jim Fuller said.
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