Thursday , April 05, 2018 - 10:50 PM1 comment
GARLAND — Bear River High School is about 20 miles, as the crow flies, from Utah State University in Logan. In a few months’ time, Bears softball senior Kapri Toone will suit up for the Aggies.
She’s been working toward college softball since she was a little kid. But until then, there’s some unfinished business.
Last year, Bear River beat Grantsville twice in the regular season but lost 7-4 against the Cowboys in the 3A state championship game.
Bears head coach Calvin Bingham feels like it was one that got away.
“We learned something from it, I felt like we didn’t have very good practices the two weeks before the state tournament and I think it kind of carried over to state,” Bingham said.
After falling short last year, Bear River is gearing up for what it hopes is another deep postseason run in a decade full of them. The Bears have a solid team as usual this year, with Toone and fellow seniors Mercedes Call (signed with Salt Lake Community College) and Taylor Fox leading the way.
Bingham says Toone is a big piece of the puzzle. Last season, she had a pitching record of 18-5 with a 2.07 ERA and a .462 batting average.
“If we don’t have her leadership and her pitching, we’re in trouble. That’s not to say we don’t have some good players ... Kapri’s really good,” he said.
Toone, normally Bear River’s ace, smacked a towering three-run homer in the first inning of Thursday’s 10-0, run-rule win over Taylorsville.
Toone didn’t pitch Thursday, but such is the evident talent among the team’s younger players that she didn’t need to.
Sophomore Bailey Theurer did throw and tossed a complete-game shutout. Fox had an RBI single in each of the fourth and fifth innings, Call smacked an RBI triple and the Bears scored in all five frames.
There’s still little things the Bears need to clean up, but Toone says they have plenty of motivation.
“We definitely refer to last year a lot, and I think it lit a fire under all of us. We don’t want to settle for playing decent, we want to be the best we can be so when we get to state, we’re ready,” Toone said.
The tough part: the Bears (9-2, 1-0 Region 12) are in 4A after the most recent realignment, a step up from 3A where they’ve won every one of their eight state championships.
The 4A classification is dominated by defending three-time champion Spanish Fork, with perennial 3A contender Tooele, as well as upstarts Cedar, Orem and Desert Hills.
Before the Bears can even begin to adjust their practice tendencies in the run-up to the state tournament, they have to navigate Region 12 — and the five Cache County schools, for the most part, aren’t slacking this year.
“I feel good about the team. We’ve got some really good ballplayers,” Bingham said.
Region 1 looked like a seven-way toss-up coming into the season. Though it’s not halfway through the season, it appears five teams have a head start in the chase for four playoff spots.
That would be Syracuse, Davis, Clearfield, Fremont and Layton.
“I’ll be honest I think a very good team is going to sit home (in the playoffs)...it’s going to be a dogfight this year,” Syracuse head coach Kelly Anderson said. “You gotta give the nod to Davis and Fremont, they’re two defending region champs. We play pretty good softball up this way.”
Davis (8-3-1, 3-0 Region 1) and Syracuse (5-5, 3-0) are tied atop the standings, both thanks, in part, to college-level players.
Syracuse touts ace pitcher and Southern Utah commit Ashtyn Bauerle, who boasts a 3-1 record, 2.07 ERA and 42 strikeouts in 27 innings. Infielder Fallyn Marshall, committed to Dawson Community College in Montana, is batting .370 with eight RBIs.
Davis senior Mia Cullimore, bound for Salt Lake Community College, is 4-2 with a 2.59 ERA on the mound, while batting .432 with a team-best 15 RBIs and four home runs. As a team, the Darts are hitting .334 with 14 home runs through 11 games.
Rachael Brown is hitting .519 for Clearfield (8-2, 2-2) through the first eight games with 14 RBIs (a team-high) and three home runs, tied for the team high with Macy Benincosa.
Another big reason for Clearfield’s early success is the pitching duo of Braxtyn Haynes and Jayci Finch, who have allowed just 20 runs in 51 1/3 innings.
After losing seven of its first eight games, Fremont (4-7, 2-1) has won three in a row, but the Silver Wolves still have the teeth of their schedule to play. Layton’s also somewhat in Fremont’s boat, meaning the Lancers (4-3, 2-1) are relatively unknown.
Those two schools have both defeated Weber (3-7, 0-4) and Northridge (1-9, 0-4), the only two winless teams left in the region.
Davis and Syracuse meet on April 10 in one of the better midseason clashes, as do Fremont and Layton in a game that could be a measuring stick for both squads.
Bountiful (6-2, 3-1 Region 5) has an interesting mix of players this year. The Braves’ top six hitters are all freshmen or sophomores, and their top pitcher is a senior McHailee Danner who went 14-4 with a 3.45 ERA last season.
Woods Cross has played just four games, but the Wildcats (2-2, 1-2) have a similar youth movement like Bountiful.
They have seven players batting better than .300, and the top four consist of three freshmen — Autumn Johnson, Elizabeth Busdicker and Jade Valdez — and sophomore Sadie Bevan.
Bountiful, Roy and Box Elder appear to be in the early driver’s seat for the Region 5 championship, though the crystal ball is still somewhat foggy.
Box Elder (7-2, 2-1) was assumed as the region’s overwhelming favorites with a host of returning talent, then McHailee Danner and the Braves pumped the brakes and put Region 5 into a three-team race.
Box Elder does have a .394 batting average as a team and a dominant pitching duo in Nyah DeRyke and Brylee Marziale. The Bees roughed up Roy ace Maysa Averett in a 10-2 win last week after falling to Bountiful.
Averett has been very reliable for the Roy (6-5, 3-1) this year in the circle in Stephanie Mark’s first year as head coach.
Viewmont hired a new head coach the day before its season started on March 13. The Vikings are 1-7 so far.
Weber County’s three 4A schools are in a new region this year that pits them against two softball powerhouses: Stansbury (state champions most recently from 2013-15) and Tooele (nine state championships, all since 1991).
With the Tooele County schools likely at the top of the pecking order, where does that put everyone else?
Ogden has only played four games, yet the Tigers are 3-1 and all of those wins are in region play. Bonneville is 3-6 with a 1-0 record in Region 11 by way of a 16-0 win over Ben Lomond.
The Scots are 0-3 to start the year and have lost each game by double-digit runs.
AREA AND BEYOND
Realignment gave Morgan a tough draw in Region 13: defending 3A state champion Grantsville. The Trojans (6-6, 1-2) are looking for their first winning season since 2009.
Utah Military Academy enters its first year of playing competitive softball and is in the 2A North region with St. Joseph.
Sign up for e-mail news updates.