SOUTH JORDAN — Tori Almond loves the pressure and challenge of pitching.

"I love the game," she said. "I love the pressure and how intense it is."

She is less comfortable, however, with the attention that usually accompanies it.

"She has always had a passion for it," said her mom, Terri Almond. "She was always determined to do it. ... As a pitcher, you're always in the spotlight, and it's an uncomfortable spot for her to be."

The quiet, good-natured senior has tried to embrace the attention — and accolades — because as talented as Almond is, it is almost unavoidable. The BYU-bound honor student led the Miners to their third straight 5A title this spring and earned the Deseret News Ms. Softball award for the second time in her four-year varsity career.

"She is not like any other pitcher," said Bingham senior catcher Whitney Lewis. "With all these awards, she's very humble. But she has the mentality of confidence. In sticky situations, she knows what to do. ... If I call anything, it's going there. I can trust her. It's a privilege to catch for her."

For the second year in a row, Almond led her squad back from a disappointing tournament loss to win the state championship. She threw 21 innings on the final day of the tournament and defeated one of the best offensive squads in the state, Roy — twice.

"She really just put the team on her back and carried us to the title," said Bingham coach Mikki Jackson of Almond's state tournament performance.

In her senior season, she threw two perfect games and averaged 14.67 strikeouts per game. At the plate, she had 18 RBIs and compiled a .474 batting average at the state tournament. She was also impressive defensively with .930 fielding percentage.

The youngest of three girls, Almond grew up watching her older sister Megan play softball. She became enamored with former Jordan standout Lindsie Nielsen and asked her parents for pitching lessons.

"She actually took a few lessons before she started playing," said Terri Almond. "She has just always, always, always wanted to pitch."

Tori Almond said it's her teammates, especially her fellow seniors, who have helped her handle both the pressure of pitching and the heat of the spotlight.

"We had a great senior class," Tori said. "We all felt like we should take the leadership role on our shoulders. We have seven great seniors and I feel like they're all really great leaders."

Jackson said Almond's work ethic and drive weren't the only qualities she imparted to the program's underclassmen.

"Tori, Cheese (Fankhauser) and all of the seniors, they made them feel welcome and valued," said Jackson. "It's a lot easier to work with kids when they feel valued."

Almond grew over her career from a timid freshman who worried about errors or missed pitches to a senior who thrived on the challenge of a difficult situation.

"It used to rattle her when mistakes were made," said Jackson. "Now she's gotten to where it's like, 'What's next?' "

Her parents have watched the transformation as well.

"She's always been determined," Terri Almond said. "She's always worked hard and she's always loved it. ... The determination and heart she's shown has been incredible. That last day at the state tournament, I've never seen a team play with so much heart and determination.

"It's emotional for me to see how she's developed and how she's grown, and now how she's reached goals and dreams she's always had as a kid. I'm so proud of her."

e-mail: adonaldson@desnews.com