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Taylorsville on top: Warriors expected to roll in Region 2 softball

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Taylorsville catcher Cyd Allen (left) applies a tag to Bingham's Taylor Mendes as she slides into home in a nonleague game earlier this season. Allen does most of her damage at the plate, as she's closing in on the state career record for home runs.

Taylorsville catcher Cyd Allen (left) applies a tag to Bingham’s Taylor Mendes as she slides into home in a nonleague game earlier this season. Allen does most of her damage at the plate, as she’s closing in on the state career record for home runs.

Scott G. Winterton, Deseret Morning News

The defending 5A state champion softball team, Taylorsville, is a confident bunch that also enjoys tossing jokes around.

Maybe they have every right to do so. The Warriors only lost two members from last year's team and no less than five players on this year's squad already have college scholarships.

But this cheeky nature, in fact, is the very problem that worries head coach Rich Kaelin. "Our biggest thing to deal with," he said, "is that they worked so hard last year."

Kaelin did his very best to state the problem in a positive context but it was evident he wants to avoid over confidence and not experience a let down. Given the talent level on this team, it is not very likely.

Cyd Allen returns as the best power hitter the state has ever seen according to Kaelin. Last year, as a junior, she hit a state-record 14 home runs. As a sophomore, she belted 12 and as a freshman she hit six. This year she already has five and Kaelin said she will surely hold the career all-time record before she is done.

Allen's teammates say she has a rocket arm that she uses to consistently throw out runners from her catcher's position. She'll play at BYU next year.

On the first weekend in March, the team traveled to Bullhead City, Ariz. where 16 of the top 20 teams in the nation met and the Warriors came out of the tournament with a couple of losses.

"That was good for our team," Kaelin said.

In their next tournament, the Warriors also lost a couple of games to stiff competition. Tia Palauni, who has signed with Utah, "hit the ball extremely well in that first tournament," said Kaelin. Marqi Gray, who has signed with SLCC, is the second best power hitter on the team. She blasted 12 home runs last year and she has signed with SLCC.

As for the pitchers, Heather Gardner and Ashlee Moore return with solid credentials.

Gardner, who will play at Snow College next year, is very friendly and she has a strong confidence in her persona. She delivered the team's motto: "Respect all, fear none."

Other returnees on the team are Michon Vanderpool, a defensive-minded third baseman and Alicia Milar, who plays in the outfield. Up-and-coming youngsters are Sami Perry, who played a little last year as a freshman, and Keeley Kirby.

Region 2 softball

(Coaches' predicted order of finish)

1. TAYLORSVILLE: No need to worry about the defending champions' 5-4 record. The Warriors have played a brutal schedule, and were edged by top-ranked Riverton. Cyd Allen leads a group of five talented players who have been awarded college scholarships, and she will likely give opposing pitchers nightmares throughout the season. 2007 record: 21-5. Playoffs: Won state championship

2. ALTA: A player to watch is Summer Comstock, who smashed a grand slam and added another home run against Timpanogos in a preseason game. She plays third base, first base and pitcher. Shortstop Collette Crystal leads the team in base hits and is "an incredible defender" according to coach Tiffani Airmet. The team's top pitchers are juniors Jaime Burnside and Cassi Kendzoir. 2007 record: 10-8. Playoffs: Went 1-2 in double-elimination tournament

3. BRIGHTON: The Bengals lost only two seniors off last year's squad, that was the first Brighton team in 10 years to finish above .500. Coach Mike Terry has twin daughters on the team. Kyrstie Terry is the team's the top pitcher and Kayla Terry is its the most consistent hitter. Kyrstie Terry is also a power hitter as she hit seven home runs last year. Savannah Nielsen and McKenna Helm are two other players to watch. 2007 record: 10-11. Playoffs: Went 0-2 in double elimination tournament

4.JORDAN: The Beetdiggers bring back only two seniors to this year's team: Kaylie Robison in center field and Bree Koncar at third base. Coach John Lundstrom said that Robison has great leadership qualities and is a strong hitter. He said Koncar is a hustler and "she brings a lot of experience." Sophomore Cierra Bell hurled a complete game victory against Woods Cross and has established herself as a solid pitching prospect. 2007 record: 13-9. Playoffs: Went 1-2 in double-elimination tournament

5. SKYLINE: The Eagles got off to a rough start in pre-season before winning a couple of games. The team is struggling in the pitching department also because they lost their pitcher to graduation. Skyline's best prospect so far is Katie Kaelin, who has started in the field since she was a freshman, but this is her first year at pitching and looks to be pretty good once she settles down. The team's top hitter is junior second baseman Hadley Hewlett, who has a couple of home runs and key hits to her credit. 2007 record: 8-15. Playoffs: Did not qualify

6. HILLCREST: In his sixth year as head coach, Hillcrest's John Flores thinks he has a good mix of older and younger kids this year. Eight kids return with varsity experience. Neela Pack is his top pitcher and although she is a senior, this is her first year on the mound. Leading hitter is Tysha Petersen, who blends power with line drives up the alleys. She has a grand slam to her credit this year. Transfer Paige Watson is a welcome addition in left field. The Huskies have already won more games than last year. 2007 record: 1-12. Playoffs: Did not qualify

E-mail: wjewkes@desnews.com