Spring sports have begun with a surprisingly favorable week of weather and few schedule impacts.
Here’s the first in an upcoming series of Standard-Examiner spring high school sports previews.
This story will preview high school softball in Regions 1, 11 and 13.
The 2020 season appears to be one where anyone can win Region 1.
For obvious reasons, one of the favorites is Layton, defending region champion and last year’s 6A state runner-up.
The Lancers have five key returners: junior Brooklyn Pritchett, junior Kaitlyn Roberts, junior Leah Knight, junior Halle Duke and senior Maci Harrop, who’s coming back from knee surgery.
For the most part, Layton will be young, particularly in the pitcher’s circle with sophomore Gracee Godfrey and freshman Haedyn Ellington coming in to help replace Jackie Gold, the 2019 Standard-Examiner All-Area MVP who’s now pitching at Weber State.
Clearfield returns pitcher Jayci Finch, who tossed 149 2/3 innings last year, struck out 156 batters, walked 18 and also batted .329 at the plate.
The Falcons also bring back talented juniors Rachael Brown (.365 average, 20 RBIs in 2019), Kaycee Valencia (she has a nine-RBI game already this year), Maycen Benincosa, sophomore Sadie Christiansen and sophomore Miranda Mansfield.
Fremont has seven returning starters with four seniors: shortstop Rylie Bennett, first baseman Jadie Aiken, pitcher Lacey Kearsley and catcher Alexis Vigil.
Bennett hit .506 with 18 RBIs and 11 double last year and anchors an experienced infield that head coach Mandy Koford thinks will keep the whole team at ease.
The Silverwolves’ three other returning starters are all juniors, led by third baseman Aubrey Morrow, who led the team last year with RBIs (35) and home runs (4), as well as hitting .432.
Todd Street takes over as Davis High head coach, replacing 17-year coach Mylei Zachman.
The Darts bring back five starters, including three seniors: pitcher Kya Wilmott, shortstop Britney Brklacich and outfielder Danielle Brklacich.
Juniors Emily Dent (second base) and Ellie Anderson (catcher) are also returning starters for Davis.
They’ve played two games in 2020 as of Tuesday morning, but an early look at the statistics shows there’s a lot of young players to keep an eye on, including sophomore Keli Scadden and Alix Thaxton.
Syracuse, the 2018 state runner-up, returns seven starters and is typically is a very good defensive team.
Those seven starters are still mostly young, with four juniors and a sophomore in that group.
Key to the team’s success, head coach Kelly Anderson said, will be getting consistent offensive production. In the Titans’ first tournament of the season, they scored four runs in their first two games, then 35 in the next three.
Weber went 1-11 in region play last year year but has a new head coach, Melinda Wade, who coached Weber to the 2012 state championship.
The Warriors’ most recognizable returner is junior pitcher/hitter Brooke Merrill, who threw 91 2/3 innings with 95 strikeouts in 2019 and also hit .528.
Roy brings back a few pretty good hitters, including one of the best infielders in the region in shortstop Saige Nielsen, who hit .418 with 10 home runs, 11 doubles and 32 RBIs in 2019.
The question is how well the Royals adjust to moving into 6A. The biggest need appears to be pitching after ace pitcher Maysa Averett graduated.
Northridge finished sixth out of seven teams in Region 1 last year and returns three starters: Keziah Stutzman, Kayla Schaaf and Amanda Lee.
The Knights are young with five freshmen starting — Anairi Fonoti, Amaya Porter, Delaney Robinson, Riley Montgomery and Josie Purcell — according to coach Casey Kap.
Region games begin Tuesday, March 17.
The Standard-Examiner asked Region 1 coaches to vote in a preseason poll. A vote for first place is worth eight points, a vote for second place is worth seven points, third place is worth six points and so on.
Total points are listed next to team names. First-place votes are marked in parentheses. Seven of the region’s eight head coaches responded.
T1. Clearfield, 45 (4)
T1. Davis, 45 (2)
3. Layton, 43
4. Fremont, 40
5. Syracuse, 29
6. Weber, 22
7. Roy, 17
8. Northridge, 11
Bear River has won four region titles in a row, but this year is no sure thing, unlike how previous years have felt and transpired.
The Bears return senior Oaklee Trapp (.355 average, 6 HR, 28 RBI in 2019), Kati Gibbs (.356, 10 RBI) and Oaklie Maxfield (.402, 27 RBI).
Mountain Crest and Ridgeline both return a handful of good players and could be in the mix for the region title.
BR head coach Calvin Bingham will begin the season with 425 career wins, second all-time behind Spanish Fork’s Don Andrews (507).
Morgan returns a handful of starters, including standout pitcher Karly Peterson.
Peterson had a 3.02 ERA and 187 strikeouts in 148 1/3 innings pitched in 2019, along with a .433 batting average and team-highs in RBIs (26) and doubles (11).
Starters Kassidy Mikesell (.385 average, 21 RBI), Rachel Edgington (.393, 22 RBI) and Mackenzie Logsdon (.295) also return.
The Trojans need some depth at pitcher, head coach Billy Peterson said, and junior Danielle Cook could be the one to give Karly Peterson a break in the circle.
Grantsville has won or shared a region title five seasons running, along with three straight state titles. The Cowgirls are the team to beat in the region and in 3A.