We're the only team, out of our whole school, that doesn't have a banner in our gym —Junior pitcher Brianna St. Clair.
ST. GEORGE — Last year the Desert Hills Thunder fell short of their goals. They intend to use that disappointment to fuel this year’s efforts and so far it appears to be working for the fifth-ranked team.
“I think that we had a really strong season last year,” said junior pitcher Brianna St. Clair. “We just ended up taking second in region and it just kind of killed us. We thought it was our year.”
Losing the last two games of region play last spring were such a blow, the Region 9 squad couldn’t recover. They were eliminated from the 3A playoffs in two straight games.
“We were devastated after losing to Snow Canyon, and I think we just gave up,” said St. Clair.
The Thunder softball team has had a very long offseason to contemplate what went wrong in a season that was filled with such promise. One of those promises — to win the school’s first softball region title — the Thunder hope they can fulfill this season.
“We’re the only team, out of our whole school, that doesn’t have a banner in our gym,” she said, pointing out that the school’s Drill Team just won their first region title in January. “I know I’m making it into a lot of pressure for myself, but it would just be the best thing.”
Thunder head coach KaCee McArthur said the team is hoping to break into the top tier of 3A teams that have had a stranglehold on the championships for many years — Juab, Bear River, Stansbury — to name a few.
“This is probably the most experienced team we’ve had in a long time,” McArthur said. Bri, she comes and does what Bri does, that’s how she leads. That’s actually how all our seniors are. They lead by example in how they practice and how they play. This team is filled with players who just say, ‘Let’s just go and get it done.’”
St. Clair owns a 15-2 record this season, with the most disappointing loss Friday in Cedar City when the Thunder relinquished a 3-0 lead in the sixth inning, losing 4-3.
“I threw one bomb,” St. Clair said. “It was a really tough loss. We’re hoping to get them next time.”
St. Clair said she “grew up on ball fields” because her older sister, now a senior playing for BYU, fell in love with the sport.
She started in the outfield, but her desire to be in the spotlight — good or bad — pushed her to pitch.
“I love being the star,” she said laughing. “I didn’t get enough attention in the outfield. I first started pitching when I was eight or nine. I was horrible, definitely horrible.” She said she’s never been the fastest pitcher, but she did learn to move the ball.
“I can hit my spots,” she said. “I have the spins, but I’ve always been jealous of people who can throw speed, like Taylei Williams (Juab pitcher).”
St. Clair acknowledges that with the spotlight comes criticism when things go wrong.
“It bothers me a lot,” she said. “Cedar was basically my fault. That’s definitely the downside. But it just makes you work harder.”
McArthur said St. Clair’s best attribute may be her mind.
“She is extremely competitive,” the coach said. “To be a pitcher, you have to be pretty tough mentally. But she’s very competitive, and she’s also a team leader in that sense. She wants to win, and she wants to do her best.”
McArthur said that is most evident when she has to rebound from a mistake or challenge.
“When someone gets a hit off of her, or some other tough situation, it fires her up a little bit more,” McArthur said. “It’s not something she shies away from. She’s pitched for a long time, so pressure is not something that’s foreign to her.”
St. Clair may relish the spotlight and thrive under pressure, but she also knows she doesn’t have to carry the weight of wins and losses alone. The Thunder have six seniors who have provided consistent leadership this season.
Two of those are standouts left fielder Sophie Wilcox, who has five doubles and five home runs, right fielder Riley Stookey, who just signed a softball scholarship with the College of Southern Nevada.
“We’ve worked really, really hard,” St. Clair said. “We can’t end up second again. We have way more confidence this year, way higher hopes.”