I think we’re all excited, just the state tournament atmosphere in itself is so much fun. You can’t take anything for granted, you can’t take anyone for granted. There’s always match-ups that are different. —Grantsville coach Heidi Taylor
A year ago Grantsville’s softball team ran the table in a stacked 3A tournament to claim its first state title in 19 years.
A year later, and in a much more diluted Class 3A thanks to UHSAA realignment, Grantsville heads into this year’s 3A playoffs as the clear-cut favorite.
Grantsville coach Heidi Taylor isn’t worried about how her young squad will handle the pressure of the moment.
“I think we’re all excited, just the state tournament atmosphere in itself is so much fun. You can’t take anything for granted, you can’t take anyone for granted. There’s always match-ups that are different,” said Taylor.
The opening round of this year’s 3A tourney takes place this Saturday at four regional sites hosted by region champs Grantsville, Juab and North Sanpete, and then Region 13 runner-up South Summit.
After this weekend the tourney shifts to the Spanish Fork Complex next Thursday through Saturday, and the number of teams capable of bouncing Grantsville is pretty slim.
How Grantsville matches up against those contenders is a bit of a mystery. It played just one game against a 3A team outside its own region this season, and that was a 5-1 win over Manti a couple weeks ago.
As for North Sanpete and Juab, regarded as the other two best teams in 3A, Grantsville hasn’t crossed paths with either this season.
“How do you gear up for a team you know nothing about? We’re just focusing on us and getting better each day and trying to do what we’ve got to do,” said Taylor.
North Sanpete won 18 games this season to claim its first region championship since 2010, and it’s likely the biggest threat to spoil Grantsville’s repeat bid. A stacked line-up is a big reason why.
“We’ve been scoring a lot of runs and have been hitting the ball really well. We have strong hitters one through nine, I think that’s our biggest strength. You don’t ever really get a break when you’re pitching to our girls,” said North Sanpete coach Landon Bailey.
Layne Gillins is leading the way for North Sanpete at the plate as she’s batting .582 with nine doubles and 27 RBI.
Region 15 champ North Sanpete faces a likely difficult second-round game against Carbon, which won 17 games during the regular season.
Juab, which clinched the outright Region 14 title with a win over Carbon on Thursday night, is also a strong hitting team. Kaitlyn Sperry, Kloie Park and Stormie Gee are all hitting over .500 this season with a combined 72 RBI.
The pitching of Taelyn Ballow will be key when Juab crosses paths with Grantsville in likely winners bracket showdown next Friday.
South Summit, which won last year’s 2A state tournament, hosts Saturday’s other regional. It’s Union, however, that appears to be the strongest team in that four-team grouping.