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This year’s softball MVPs are pitcher perfect

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Four fantastic hurlers.

Combined, their powerful pitching performances perplexed opposing batters and coaches alike. They made sure this was not the year of the hitter in Utah high school softball.That is why Jordan's Lacee LePrey, Roy's Mandy Flint, Bran-dy Butler of Tooele and Angie Strickland of Grantsville have been selected as 1998 Deseret News Most Valuable Players.

The quartet of MVPs tops this year's all-state teams, which were selected by a ballot of the state's coaches.

5A - LACEE LEPREY, JORDAN: Last year, LePrey looked like anything but an MVP as her control was a bit out of control. But she returned for her sophomore season as a "completely different" pitcher, according to Jordan coach Steve Hendricks, finding her spots well enough to compile an 11-1 record with 88 strikeouts, eight shutouts, a no-hitter and a 0.41 ERA.

LePrey is as strong at the plate as she is on the mound, finishing the year with a .337 batting average and 31 RBIs.

"She's really quiet but is strictly business on the field," said Hendricks. "She stepped up in the state tournament and pitched flawlessly."

LePrey's tournament success in leading the Beetdiggers to the 5A title capped her MVP year. She shut out top-ranked Bingham in the semifinals and the championship game, allowing the Miners a combined five hits in the two games. Her two-run double against Bingham drove in the title-winning run.

4A - MANDY FLINT, ROY: After sharing time with all-stater Tori Sandoval last year, the Royals' pitching duties fell squarely on Flint's shoulders this year, and she relished every moment of it.

"I wouldn't have wanted it any other way," said Flint, who threw every pitch in helping guide Roy to its first state softball title. "There wasn't one time when I said `Gosh, I want a break.' "

Behind Flint's golden arm, Roy tied Box Elder for the Region 4 title, then went 5-1 at the state tournament en route to the 4A crown.

The Ricks College signee pitched the Royals to a win over Bonneville and two over Fremont on the last day of the tournament. Her two-run single drove home the tying and winning runs in the championship game.

Flint's tournament totals included a 1.23 ERA, two shutouts and an incredible 54 strikeouts.

3A - BRANDY BUTLER, TOOELE: While her tiny 5-foot frame isn't going to intimidate batters, Butler's pitches will certainly fool most of them.

"She keeps the batters off guard because she throws a lot of junk," said Tooele head coach Linda Kimball. "She's not as fast as others . . . but the more she has to pitch the harder she throws."

Butler pitched every game this year in helping the Buffaloes win the 3A state title in, ironically, St. George, having already signed to play for Dixie College next year.

This season, Butler had a 1.95 ERA and a .350 batting average, but her most impressive play came on the final day of the state tournament.

Butler opened the day by tossing a no-hitter against top-ranked Union, then helped her team knock off Snow Canyon twice to win the championship. Butler struck out 32 opposing batters in the state tournament.

2A - ANGIE STRICKLAND, GRANTSVILLE: This junior's season performance matches those of her 4A and 3A counterparts. Strick-land pitched every inning this year for the Cowgirls, racking up a 1.36 ERA (1.14 in the state tournament).

She also had to pitch three games on the final day of state tournament to help her team win the 2A title, doing so while being hampered by a pulled groin muscle. Despite the injury, she was still throwing 55 mph pitches in the championship game against Par-o-wan.

"She works really hard in the offseason and that's what makes her so good," Grantsville head coach Bridget Allie said. "She's one of the leaders on the team, she's very competitive and she likes to win."

A first-team all-state performer her freshman and sophomore seasons, Strickland tossed three no-hitters and three one-hitters this year. She also compiled a .344 batting average while hitting in the cleanup spot.