SYRACUSE – Hanna Golder could hear the comments as she stepped up to the plate.

“‘Hey, she’s going to slap, she’s going to slap,’” Golder said opposing players would yell as they crept closer in. “‘She’s a lefty leadoff hitter, she’s going to slap.’”

At 5-foot-2 and 98 pounds, Golder is used to the reaction.

“They’ve always looked at me and moved up,” Golder said.

By the end of the softball season, Golder had opposing defenses thinking twice about their defensive positioning.

“I figured out how to hit the ball hard so I could hit it over their heads and show them that just because I’m little doesn’t mean I can’t hit the ball,” Golder said.

Golder, who just finished her freshman year, sprayed the ball all over the field throughout the 2014 season. Among Clearfield hitters with at least 50 plate appearances, Golder finished the year first on the team in on-base percentage (.515), second in extra-base hits (10) and third in batting average (.405).

Golder didn’t just hit well, she hit good pitching well. Against Bonneville senior ace Andy Hancock in the second round of the 4-A state playoffs, Golder had Clearfield’s only two hits.

“When I get up to the plate I just think that I’m the same as them,” Golder said of competing against juniors and seniors. “They’re just here to have fun and enjoy the game.”

Golder’s success started long before she cracked the Clearfield starting lineup. Playing in a comp game with Clearfield pitcher Bailey Douglas last summer, Golder stepped to the plate to face Weber High graduate and Brigham Young University signee McKenna Bull.

Golder smacked the ball up the middle for a base hit.

“It was the best feeling in the world because a bunch of the girls before had got out,” Golder said.

Golder acknowledges that experience helped her throughout the season.

“I’ve looked back on it quite a few times because that showed me that I really can do anything that I really put my mind to,” Golder said. “If that’s what it means to help out the team and to help us get a win or get out of a slump, then that’s what I’m going to do.”

Before the first game of the season, Golder was selected as the team’s starting center fielder. According to coach Nicole Tindall, Golder’s confidence set her apart.

“It started in open gym when she would come clear back in January,” Tindall said. “We just kept saying, ‘That girl’s a freshman?’ The way she carried herself – not cocky, but just confident in what she was doing. She came in and said, ‘Hey, I’ve played second base, I’ve played outfield, I’ll try to play wherever you want me to.’ She had the attitude of, ‘I just want to play and I’ll work my butt off wherever’s best for me.’”

Although Golder didn’t struggle a lot this season, she did early on. Then, in an early-season game against Woods Cross, Golder had three hits.

“She was trying to prove herself to us not realizing that we put her there because we already saw the talent and the leadership that she had,” Tindall said. “So at the beginning of the year, she actually struggled a bit. Not bad, but not the .400 that she hit at the end of the year.

“But we kept her there and I think her confidence was, ‘This is the same game. These people really do believe in me. My teammates believe in me. Doesn’t matter if I’m a freshman, I can still get the job done.”

In addition to being one of the team’s best hitters, Golder was also a stalwart in center field, where she earned the team’s gold glove award.

“She can cover so much ground,” Tindall said. “One, she’s quick, but she also gets good leads off the bat and she has good angles. People look at her and probably think if the ball’s hit to center they’re going to try and take an extra base, but she’s very accurate, very consistent.”

Golder also finished second among her peers for most inspirational player.

“She’s constantly saying, ‘I can do that. I can make that,’” Tindall said. “She picks her teammates up. She’s very encouraging.”

According to Tindall, Golder’s potential is similar to that of University of Oregon softball player Courtney Ceo.

“I was in Oklahoma City watching the college World Series and I texted Hanna and said you should watch Courtney Ceo from Oregon,” Tindall said. “She’s a petite girl. She’s tall, but she’s small. She can bunt to get on, she can hit a home run if she needs to. It’s so hard to defend her because she can do all that.

“I was telling Hanna that it’s really nice that she learned to hit first. A lot of people see someone with speed and immediately think, ‘Oh, let’s make them a slapper.’ But then they never learn to hit with power, so once the (opposing) team understands, ‘Oh, this girl can only bunt,’ it’s a little bit easy to defend her. But where she already knows how to hit with power, we can keep working the slaps and the drag bunts. She’s going to be so hard to get out. She already is hard to get out, but she’s going to be even harder once teams start to know her and realize what she does.”

Golder’s mother, Michelle Golder, noticed that by the end of the season, teams were already starting to figure it out.

“(One) coach came out and said, ‘She can hit. Move out. Move out,’” Michelle said. “We were laughing. We were sitting right out here and the coach said, ‘Move out. She can hit.’

“It was bittersweet. We were like, dang, she can’t trick them.”

As a freshman, Golder attended Legacy Junior High School in Layton. She lives in Syracuse, but is inside the Clearfield boundaries.

Contact reporter Ryan Comer at rcomer@standard.net. Follow him on Twitter at @RyanComerSE and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/RyanComerSE

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