OGDEN — Good things usually happen for any sports team that has a lot of seniors.
Those players are normally experienced, smart and calm under pressure, to go with the natural athletic progression one gets from playing a sport for multiple years.
Bonneville High’s softball team normally doesn’t field teams that are deep with seniors. This year is a bit of an outlier.
“We’ve always been such a young team, for example we lost two seniors last year ... I feel like our girls are more mature. It comes with age, so these girls really coach themselves, they do a great job at it,” Lakers head coach Brenda Hart said.
Bonneville has six seniors this season and most of them start. With two Region 11 games left, the Lakers are 8-2 and are pretty much locked in as a No. 2 seed for the state playoffs.
“We’ve been playing together for so long, since we were young,” senior catcher Syd Smith said.
Things really started rolling on March 22 when the Lakers beat Stansbury 23-11. The Stallions have won at least 20 games in six of the past seven seasons.
The differences between this year’s Bonneville team and last year’s don’t end with the number of seniors or the seeding (or the brand-new dugouts).
Bonneville’s schedule features many double-digit wins over Ben Lomond, Park City and Ogden — the latter whom the Lakers beat 17-0 on Tuesday in a three-inning game played under cloudy skies.
They had a lot of those kinds of wins last season, too, but it’s one particular loss this year (2-1 on the road at Tooele) that might stand out for a couple reasons.
At the beginning of the season, the conversation about 4A state championship contenders mainly revolved around Bear River, Spanish Fork and Tooele, with Cedar and Uintah coming into the fold recently.
The first time Bonneville met Tooele this season, phenom Buffaloes pitcher Attlyn Johnston tossed a six-inning no-hitter, struck out 13 Lakers with no walks and Tooele won 12-0 on the Lakers’ home field.
The second time the Lakers saw the Buffaloes, it was nearly a 180-degree difference. It was 1-1 until the bottom of the seventh inning when Tooele knocked in a run to win.
“We came up with a different game plan, we approached it differently, we didn’t stand there and swing the bat, we used a different technique and I think it helped us,” Hart said.
That game didn’t show anything more to Hart that she didn’t already know or believe about the team. Hart coaches them and sees them all the time.
It did open some players’ eyes a little bit.
“We had nothing to lose, so we gave it our all the entire game. It showed us that, going into state, we can beat any team we see if we give it our all and play our best. We can do it,” Smith said.
An ability to adjust to a team a second time stands out. It doesn’t hurt that the state tournament is a double-elimination format.
Since the Lakers are basically locked into the No. 2 seed, the focus now goes to two remaining region games against Juan Diego and to preparing for the state tournament.
It’s a tricky balance and teams in any league, anywhere, at any level, can fall victim to looking too far ahead. In Hart’s years of coaching, that situation hasn’t happened for her teams, she said.
“We keep practices fun and we don’t put too much pressure on them ... we work on the techniques, but we keep it light,” Hart said.
In a purely coincidental occurrence, the last time Bonneville’s softball team had at least six seniors on it was 2014 when the Lakers rolled through their region and eventually finished as 4A runners-up.
They have belief in this season and, in the right hands, that can do wonders.