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SLCC softball: Best pitching staff ever?

Pitchers making SLCC national softball power

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TAYLORSVILLE — It might seem like an idle boast to proclaim to the world on Facebook that your softball team possesses the best pitching staff ever.

Still, when Salt Lake Community College pitcher Jordyn McDonald wrote such a statement on her Facebook page recently, there was plenty of truth to it.

SLCC (59-3) has reigned as the No. 1 softball team in the NJCAA for much of this season after winning its first 39 games, and heads into the NJCAA national tournament in St. George this weekend as the No. 1 overall seed. A big reason why is the talented arms of McDonald and fellow sophomores Sarah Clark and Reilee O'Brien.

You would be hard-pressed to find any junior college team nationally that can match the collective talent of the Bruins' top three pitchers.

"This is the best pitching staff I've ever worked with," O' Brien said. "It's going to be hard to find three pitchers that can understand the game as well as we do."

Their statistics certainly can attest to what O'Brien is saying.

McDonald sports a 29-0 record from the circle. In 35 appearances and 25 starts, she has a 1.42 earned run average and has chalked up 191 strikeouts. Clark is 22-2 in 32 appearances and 26 starts. Her ERA is 1.62, and she has struck out 104 batters. O'Brien, the team's closer, is 8-1 in 42 appearances and 11 starts. She has made four saves, has struck out 87 batters she's faced and owns a 1.80 ERA.

Individually, each one is a talented and dangerous pitcher. Together, they have proven they can lock down virtually any offense SLCC faces.

"All three of us are different," Clark said. "We all have different pitches, and we all have a different look that, I think, just complements each other. A team can't prepare for one thing. They have to prepare for many different things."

One reason the Bruins enjoy such a pronounced edge in pitching over other teams is their equal toughness on the offensive side of things. As a team, SLCC leads its conference in nearly every offensive category.

Individually, Cyd Allen leads the Scenic West Athletic Conference in batting average (.535), slugging percentage (.897), on base percentage (.623) and RBIs (82). She also ranks among the top five in hits (83), runs (63) and home runs (11).

McDonald and Erika James lead the team with 67 runs apiece and also rank in the top five in the Scenic West in that category. McDonald leads the league in doubles (25), and James is the leader in stolen bases with 43 in 45 attempts.

Such dominance extends into fielding, too, where the Bruins lead the Scenic West with a .964 team field percentage and have 30 fewer errors than their next closest league rival.

"Our defense works really hard for us," O'Brien said. "We know they're going to lay out for every ball, and then we can come in and hit the ball. And our batters work really hard for us."

McDonald said head coach Mary Kay Amicone and her assistants have also played a big part in getting the most out the entire pitching staff.

She said the coaches have helped her improve her own game in ways she never imagined as a freshman coming to SLCC for the first time.

"I love them, and I know they have good experience," McDonald said. "The team before I came — you could tell they had good coaching behind them. So I said, 'They could really help improve me to help me move onto another school.' "

And each one is indeed moving onto another school.

Clark signed with Weber State. O'Brien is headed to Utah Valley. McDonald committed to play for UC-Riverside. Before they scatter to new destinations, however, they still have a major item of unfinished business in St. George this weekend.

None of the three pitchers — nor the rest of their Bruin teammates for that matter — are simply satisfied with reaching the national tournament for a second consecutive year. Their main goal now is coming home with a national championship trophy in tow.

"We were excited to be there last year," O'Brien said. "But this year, we've got a greater goal in mind. It's to win it. We definitely want to meet our goals that we have down there to win a national championship."

If SLCC does indeed claim a national title, it would be the second team at the school to do so in the past two years. The Bruins men's basketball team brought home its first national championship after mounting a brilliant run through the 2009 NJCAA tournament.

Ending the 2010 season as the top junior college team, after spending most of it ranked no. 1, would indeed feel like a fitting climax for the players of what has been one of the most dominant teams in any sport in school history.

"It would probably be the best feeling in the world because we've worked so hard," Clark said. "I just feel like we're ready for it."

SLCC will begin NJCAA tournament first-round play this morning when the No. 1-seeded Bruins face 16th-seeded Pitt Community College at 10 a.m. A live video feed of tournament games will be available on www.njcaa.org/tv, and live stats can be obtained at www.slccbruins.com for each game.

NJCAA Tournament

First Round

Who: SLCC vs. Pitt CC

When: 10 a.m.

Where: St. GeorgeHeady

e-mail: jcoon@desnews.com