Washington (main photo)

Ridgeline’s Tia Washington pitches the ball against Logan in 2019. Washington is one of many athletes from Cache Valley who had their senior season cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Editor’s note: This is the first of an 11-part series profiling various spring high school sports in Cache Valley and recognizing the seniors from those teams.

The Region 12 softball race had the potential to be very intriguing before the COVID-19 pandemic led to the cancellation of the rest of the season well before any region games were played.

Ridgeline and Mountain Crest returned several starters from teams that won multiple games in the 2019 4A state tournament, Bear River is always a title contender, and Green Canyon appeared to be much improved from a year ago. Meanwhile, Sky View welcomed back a lot of veterans, while Logan had to replace several standout performers but was making significant strides when the coronavirus outbreak intensified.

Here is a breakdown of each Cache County team:

MOUNTAIN CREST

The Mustangs were hungry and motivated to build on last year’s success, but they didn’t even get to play a game in 2020. Mountain Crest finished second in the region a season ago and nearly beat eventual 4A runner-up Spanish Fork in the state tourney.

“With some key starters graduating last year, we did not want people chalking our season this year up to ‘a building year,’” MC head coach Courtnee Maughan said. “Our goal was to start strong and finish stronger. I was pushing the girls over the winter to set us up to succeed. Our team motto for the season is ‘refuse to lose’ and we were well on our way to proving just that. Our chemistry was clicking, our mechanics were sharp, we were stronger and faster and we were ready to rock ‘n’ roll.”

Indeed, the Mustangs graduated some standouts, including 2019 All-Valley Player of the Year Haylee Brown, but returned four players who were selected to the All-Valley team. Then-freshman Teagan Hall was the Newcomer of the Year, Maysen Bryson and Madison Bertagnolli secured a spot on the first team, and Brooklyn Clark was a honorable mention selection. Bertagnolli was the Newcomer of the Year in 2008.

Bryson and College of Southern Idaho-bound pitcher Jessica Touchard are Mountain Crest’s lone seniors. Maughan plans on having a Senior Day, but “details are in the works.”

“Jessica Touchard and Maysen Bryson play key roles to the core of our team,” Maughan said. “They both truly love the game and have put their heart and sole into getting better over the years. It was devastating and gut-wrenching to tell them this is how their senior high school season would come to an end. They have bright futures ahead of them inside and outside of softball, but I am heartbroken we don’t get to finish what is supposed to be some of the most exciting times of their lives together.”

In addition to Touchard and Bryson, Mountain Crest’s other starters are juniors Brooke Miller, Bertagnolli, Jocey Bradford, Clark and Hallee Maddock, and sophomores Paige Larocco, Emma Child and Hall. Clark is a three-year starter, and Maughan was looking forward to having Child “back healthy.”

RIDGELINE

The Riverhawks were able to get in nine games — the most of any team in the valley and maybe even the state — before the season was postponed and ultimately canceled. Ridgeline won six of those games and against some stiff competition, to boot.

Indeed, this had the makings of a memorable season for the Riverhawks, who finished fourth at the 4A State Championships last spring.

“This group together was almost collectively stronger them a lot of the teams I’ve coached and even though we didn’t have one or two superior athletes, something about this group when they came together made them really, really super strong,” Ridgeline head coach Mike Anderson said. “And so I think ... that this season had the feel of something special for us. The best we’ve ever done is finished third at state, but we had some things in place (to potentially do better than that). ... This team did not fear a person, pitcher or player.”

Ridgeline has four seniors in Tia Washington, Maddy Telford, Laci Leishman and Ellie Mons, and all four are starters and captains. Washington, who got off to a phenomenal start this spring, and Leishman have verbally committed to junior college power Dawson (Montana) Community College.

Anderson spoke highly of all his seniors and was heartbroken when he informed them their final prep season was cut short. Anderson has visited with each of his seniors and delivered a gift to their homes. He plans on having some kind of end-of-season gathering, even if it’s in the middle of the summer.

“I would like to tell them I wish things are going to get better and we’re going to get this season in, but the hard truth of life is it’s over,” Anderson said. “And that’s kind of the way life works some times and so there’s some good lessons to be learned. And so I’m super proud of them where they’re at, and I don’t think there’s any gift or anything that I can give them that would replace or even come close to the relationship or feelings I have for them.”

Ridgeline’s other starters are junior Kaylee Smith and a slew of sophomores in Katelyn Leishman, Kori Palmer, Markessa Jensen, Kenzee Hale, Brinn Anderson and Psadi Takis.

Washington and Hale were named to the Herald Journal All-Valley first team a year ago, while Leishman was a honorable mention selection. Washington also garnered honorable mention all-state accolades.

LOGAN

The Grizzlies were able to play three games in a three-day stretch before their season came to a screeching halt. Lexi Hatch, who is in her first season at the Grizzly helm, was pleased with how her team was bonding and how the varsity players were mentoring the younger girls.

“Our realistic expectations and goals for this year were simple: play hard, play together and improve in some area every single game,” Hatch said. “We only got three games, they happened to be within three days, and they were against big and very talented schools. The scores weren’t great, but each game the girls improved and came together more. We got base runners on. We got hits. We hit cutoffs. Our new girls learned about their positions and what it’s like to hit off of a live pitcher. We set little goals each game and felt accomplished after each game, even when we lost.”

Logan has four seniors in Rachel Boyer, Savannah Buttars, Emily Thurston, and Alyssa De La Puente, and all of them are starters and captains. Hatch plans on honoring her seniors and said, “I’ve got little surprises for all of my girls, and a little bit bigger surprises for my four seniors.” The head coach has constructed a framed picture for each of her athletes.

“My four seniors will always have a special place in my heart,” Hatch said. “I am astounded by the leadership that they naturally have, their work ethic and their positive attitudes. I can’t believe that they don’t get to finish their senior years like they deserve. They wanted to shine bright for their last at-bats, but sadly they didn’t know it would be the last time. They have instead been lights in this dark time for our team. We love them, we feel for them. Breaking the inevitable news to them was one of the hardest things I’ve had to do. They wept. I wept. But they will go on to do great things.”

Logan’s other starters are juniors Makenzie Graves, Taysha Romney, Kaylie Peterson, Maya Jacome and Ivy Bybee. Graves, Logan’s pitcher, Jacome and Peterson “did really well in our short season,” Hatch asserted. Hatch called her four seniors “great leaders” who were “great examples to the younger girls.”

GREEN CANYON

Things were looking promising for the Wolves, who bounced back from a rough season-opening loss to Weber by exploding for 21, 26 and 19 runs in back-to-back-to-back wins over Jordan, West Side and Hillcrest.

Green Canyon head coach Joe Astle loved the “fire and dedication” he was seeing from his squad prior to the season being halted. Several athletes were staying after practice and “asking a lot of questions,” and the team as a whole was being much more aggressive on the basepaths.

“Well, after our season last year we really focused on trying to be a more competitive softball program as a whole,” Astle said. “And we just really focused on ... our aggressiveness overall, and I’ve just really seen a whole different team this year.”

The Wolves have five seniors, all of whom are starters, in Braquel Bennett, Shante’ Falslev, Kaytie Jensen, Jerica Blotter and Addie Lloyd. Blotter, Falslev and Jensen are the captains, along with junior Morgan Gittins. Plans to recognize these 12th-graders are still in the works, but “we definitely want to do something special for them and something that they can remember.”

“First of all, the seniors that are here this year, I’ve been with them since they were freshmen, so this is probably a tougher year for me than any with all of this going down,” Astle said. “... They were just looking so forward to the season. I mean, you could just tell, it being their last year, they were pumped, they were working hard. And although we lost our first game, we really did well with our next three games, and you could just see the momentum picking up.”

Green Canyon’s other starters are juniors Madi Petersen, Brinley Johnson and Cassidy Tingey, and sophomore Annika Eborn. Tingey had a concussion at the beginning of the season, so Kylee Erickson was providing some valuable varsity minutes.

Blotter was an all-valley first-team honoree last year, while Gittins and Peterson were honorable mention selections.

Like most coaches in the state, Astle, who raved about his team’s “positivity,” couldn’t help but play the “what if” game.

“Last year we definitely struggled a little bit, but I really would loved to have seen how we panned out this year with the schedule that we had and just kind of seen where we would have ended up in the region,” he said.

SKY VIEW

Sky View head coach Amanda Robinson was anticipating breakout performances from a wealth of her players this spring. Unfortunately for the Bobcats, they were only able to play twice before the season was shut down.

“This season our goal was to stay in every game mentally and physically,” Robinson said. “We really wanted to compete no matter who we were playing. We had a lot of young competitive talent this year. Our motto this season was ‘pay the rent,” (which) is from a JJ Watt quote. (Watt said) ‘success isn’t owned, it’s leased and the rent is due every day.’ We wanted to focus on being better everyday and never letting off the gas.”

The Bobcats have a good mix of veterans and underclassmen. All five of their seniors are starters in Addie Hall, Layla Kaup, Darcee Lundberg, Terra Russ and Mackenzie Schnell.

Robinson is looking forward to recognizing these 12th-graders and said “we have a couple different ideas in mind and are waiting to see what restrictions look like in May. We will make sure that they know they are loved and appreciated.”

“This year’s senior class is special and they will always hold a special place for me,” Robinson said. “They are the first class that I have coached since they were freshmen. The news that the season was canceled was a hard pill to swallow, but I feel like we all kind of knew it was coming. Our seniors are sad. They were really looking forward to this season and having a Senior Night. My heart goes out to them in many ways, but they are very resilient and determined. They will all do great things.”

Hall is a captain, along with junior Abbey Cantwell and sophomore Morgan Hernandez. Other starters are junior Hadlee Noble and freshman Cambria Davis, with Macy Neidig and Brynn Mayhew providing valuable depth.

Robinson was expecting big things from Hernandez and Cantwell offensively, and Davis in the circle. Robinson, who made a point to thank her assistant coaches — “I have an amazing coach staff” — also raved about Noble’s “positive attitude and never quit mentality.”

Cantwell and Schnell earned honorable mention all-valley accolades a year ago.

Jason Turner is a sports reporter for The Herald Journal. He can be reached at jturner@hjnews.com or 435-792-7237.

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