We just have girls that go out and get it every time. —West coach Sharee McBraun
SALT LAKE CITY — The West softball team won it all last season, and if Tuesday's home-opener versus Copper Hills is any indication, the Panthers could very well repeat the feat in 2018.
The Panthers walloped the visiting Grizzlies 12-2 in five innings after incurring a lead-off home run and a 2-0 deficit after an inning and a half played.
"These are great girls, and we're a great-hitting team, so they don't let things like that get them down," said West coach Sharee McBraun, who headed the coaching efforts on Tuesday in the absence of coach Keith Lopati. "We're always pushing for ones and believe they'll come, and they did."
Copper Hills' two scores came from Makaiya Gomez, who led things off with a solo home run before drawing a bases-loaded walk in the top of the second inning.
From there, West pitcher Mikayla Ulibarri settled down while the Panther bats came alive.
Ulibarri recorded three straight outs in the top of the third, with West firmly taking control in the bottom half. Keisha White led things off with a double, with Josie Vaenuku, Brianna White and Erika De La Riva each following up with RBI singles to extend the Panthers' lead. The rest of the runs came by virtue of some hyper-aggressive base-running, something which West thrives with.
"We just have girls that go out and get it every time," McBraun said. "If that means doing it base running, then that's how we do it. That's been successful for us, and it certainly was successful for us today. But we go hard. We've been training hard, and we use it to our advantage."
Kalena Shepherd topped off the afternoon's scoring with a 2-run home run over the center-field fence, with Ulibarri able to shut things down in the fourth and then fifth innings, putting the 10-run rule in effect to shorten the game.
It was a satisfying debut for a West team that returns many of the same stars that led the program to a state championship last season.
"We only lost three seniors, so we'll just continue doing what we do," McBraun said. "We obviously have a state championship in the long-term goal, but we just take it one game at a time, and we'll continue to tweak things and try and improve on all the good things we were able to do a year ago. There's still a long ways to go."
With the win, West gets off to a 1-0 record in-state and will next take on Riverton and other top teams before heading into Region 6 play.