Watch out for the stampede of the Buffaloes.
The Region 7 softball challengers sent Lehi on up to 5A at the end of last year only to add one of the toughest teams in the state in any classification in the Tooele Buffaloes. And those Buffaloes not only want to make a splash at the region level, they want to take their fifth state championship in the last six years. Whether it's 3A or 4A makes no difference.
Once again Dixie State-bound Lauren Folta will lead the Buffaloes from the circle, and unlike most of the other teams in the valley, Tooele will count on its pitching and defense because many of its bats are young and inexperienced. Matti Snow will back up Folta in the circle and provide one of Tooele's toughest bats. Kelsey Mendenhall and Brittany Gonzales will also be counted on heavily in the lineup.
"When we get to the top of the lineup, we're confident they'll come through. We're pretty deep. It's a matter of staying confident but not being overconfident," said Tooele coach Barry Pitt.
But it isn't just Tooele that has big plans for this season. The Springville Red Devils finished second at state in 4A last season and bring back seven of their nine starters from that team. If they can get past the early part of the season and get everybody healthy, they could give the Buffaloes a real run for their money.
"We've been a little rusty so far this year," said Springville coach Karl Jensen, who noted that he's had seven girls out with injuries so far in the early going.
He'll be counting heavily on pitchers Sarah Clark and Kandace Kirkham. A strong hitting lineup will also be a huge plus as sophomores Brittany McCray, Nikki Brailsford and Aria Agle's bats should come in handy, as should Clark's, Holli Averett's and Keeli Chalk's.
But if Springville is in the hospital ward, Payson is providing its own rendition of a triage unit as the Lions just lost Chantae Ballard for what could be the rest of the season with a broken hand. Pitcher Brittany Adamson is on her way back from an ACL tear.
Payson wants to be in the mix at the top with a young bunch led by pitchers Rikki Christensen and Taelyr Stevenson and the hitting prowess of freshman phenom Jessie Uresti.
Of the four remaining teams that coaches in the league believe will be in a dogfight for the final playoff position, the Timpview T-birds seem to have the upper hand in the early going with Alisha Talk in the circle and Susan Vogtman in the batters' box.
The rest of the teams in Region 7 are very young and inexperienced. Provo's counting on some talented athletes learning to play the game in addition to its strike pitcher Sharlie Hatch. Orem is looking to pitcher Delcie Woodis and catcher Marquel Clegg to lead the way, and Mountain View will count on a mix of youth and experience in a nice hitting lineup.
Region 7 softball
COACH: Barry Pitt, eighth year
LAST YEAR: 24-3, first in Region 11, 3A state champions
OUTLOOK: The Buffaloes don't seem to mind that they've moved up to 4A. It wouldn't be any kind of stretch for them to run away with another state title. We've played up with 4A and 5A the last few years. We can play with anybody, said Pitt. And they have tough Lauren Folta in the circle. She can throw fear into almost any opponent.
TOP HITTERS: Matti Snow, So.; Kelsey Mendenhall, Sr.; Brittany Gonzales, Sr.
TOP DEFENDERS: Aly Jensen, Jr., C; Marissa Mendenhall, Fr., INF; Allie Alverson, Jr., OF; Ashleigh Walker, Jr., OF; Jordan McMain, Jr., OF; K. Mendenhall, Sr., INF; Gonzales, Sr., INF.
TOP PITCHERS: Lauren Folta, Sr., RH; Snow, So., RH.
PREDICTED 2008 REGION FINISH: First
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SPRINGVILLE RED DEVILS
COACH: Karl Jensen, second year
LAST YEAR: 22-6, first in Region 7, 4A state runners-up
OUTLOOK: Though this team will now have to battle perennial power Tooele, the outlook is still good, and the Red Devils could easily make a run for the region title. I think we'll be OK. I think we'll develop the continuity we need defensively to go along with good pitching, said Jensen, whose team has been injury riddled so far this season.
TOP HITTERS: Sarah Clark, Jr.; Keeli Chalk, Sr.; Nikki Brailsford, So.; Brittany McCray, So.; Holli Averett, Jr.; Aria Agle, So.
TOP DEFENDERS: McCray, So., C; Danica Budge, Sr., INF; Chalk, Sr., INF; Kellie Tobler, Sr., INF; Gabi Petro, Jr., OF; Kayla Hudman, Sr., OF; Averett, Jr., INF; Chalk, Sr., INF.
TOP PITCHERS: Clark, Sr., RH; Kandace Kirkham, Sr. RH; Mariah Jensen, Jr., RH; Agle, So., RH.
PREDICTED 2008 REGION FINISH: Second
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COACH: Brent Shurtleff, second year
LAST YEAR: 14-13, third in Region 7
OUTLOOK: The Lions shouldn't have too much of a problem putting runs on the board, but they do have a few key injuries plaguing them. We're still young, and we're hurting, but we have a nice defense and our pitchers are throwing well, said Shurtleff. Leadoff hitter Chantae Ballard went down with a broken hand last week.
TOP HITTERS: Chelsey Diamond, Jr.; Lexi Bushman, Jr.; Karlie Mangelson, Sr.; Keely Alexander, Sr.; Jessie Uresti, Fr.; Abby Christensen, Fr.; Lacey Veeman, So.
TOP DEFENDERS: Bushman, Jr., INF; Diamond, Jr., INF; Uresti, Fr., OF.
TOP PITCHERS: Rikki Christensen, Jr., RH; Brittney Adamson, Jr., RH; Taelyr Stevenson, Fr., LH; Shelby Fridell, Fr., RH.
PREDICTED 2008 REGION FINISH: Third
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COACH: Debbie Dodds, second year
LAST YEAR: 5-16, fifth in Region 7
OUTLOOK: The T-Birds rebuilding process is in full swing and should pay off with a playoff spot this year. I think they believe in themselves and have confidence in each other. I've got a good group together, said Dodds, whose team is finally seeing some continuity.
TOP HITTERS: Kimmy Bramble, Jr.; Susan Vogtman, Sr.; Alisha Talk, Jr..; Michon Marchant, So.; Tori Griffith, Sr.
TOP DEFENDERS: Megan Fillmore, Jr., INF; Vogtman, Sr., INF; Talk, Jr., INF; Griffith, Sr., INF; Bramble, Jr., INF; Adaiza Greenhalgh, Sr., INF; Megan Pulham, Jr., OF.
TOP PITCHERS: Talk, Jr., RH; Vogtman, Sr. RH
PREDICTED 2008 REGION FINISH: Fourth
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COACH: Jill Messenger, third year
LAST YEAR: 5-16, sixth in Region 7
OUTLOOK: We're a heck of a lot better than in past years. They fight this year, but we tend to play to the level of our competition. I think we're going to be pretty tough, said Messenger, and her team should definitely have a shot to make the playoffs in the tough region.
TOP HITTERS: Kylee Griffin, Sr.; Liz Speckhard, Sr.; Sarah Law, Jr.; Holly Ayoso, Sr.; Julia Santiago, Jr.; Latisha Miller, Sr.; Liz Taylor, Sr.
TOP DEFENDERS: Law, Jr., INF; Griffin, Sr., C; Santiago, Jr., INF; Ashley Kuchar, So., OF; Vanna Cox, Sr., OF;
TOP PITCHERS: Sharlie Hatch, Jr., RH; Law, Jr., RH; Hannah Ogren, Sr., RH
PREDICTED 2008 REGION FINISH: Fifth
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COACH: Katrina Norris, first year
LAST YEAR: 6-15, fourth in Region 7
OUTLOOK: This team is extremely young, returning only one starter and fielding no seniors. We have great talent and enthusiasm, but overall we've got a lot to work on. But they're so young they're pliable and not totally set in their ways yet, said Norris.
TOP HITTERS: Maquel Clegg, Jr.; Kaitlyn Albach, Jr.; Angie Helsten, Jr.; Brittany Carn, So.; Johnna Maughn, So.
TOP DEFENDERS: Helsten, Jr., INF; Clegg, Jr., C; Laurin Jensen, So., OF; Kara Peay, So., INF.
TOP PITCHERS: Delcie Woodis, Jr., RH; Haylie Sehlburg, So., RH
PREDICTED 2008 REGION FINISH: Sixth
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MOUNTAIN VIEW BRUINS
COACH: Jenny Thurston, first year
LAST YEAR: 5-16, sixth in Region 4
OUTLOOK: This is a big rebuilding year. Our goal is to get better every game so we'll do well at the end of the season. We can be a big hitting team, said Thurston, whose team is also fighting through injuries and is hoping to win the dogfight for the fourth playoff spot in Region 7.
TOP HITTERS: Britney Carlsen, Jr.; Taylor Sunburg, Fr.; Hailey Bradshaw, Sr.; Whitney Florea, Sr.; Alyssa Olsen, Sr.
TOP DEFENDERS: Cary Cosgrove, Jr., INF; Megan Goodman, Jr., INF; Syd Roden, So., OF; Chelsea Kocherhans, Jr., OF; Carlsen, Jr., OF.
TOP PITCHERS: Bradshaw, Sr., RH; Erika Nielsen, Jr., RH.
PREDICTED 2008 REGION FINISH: Seventh