Mountain Ridge softball looking to build off state championship appearanceMar 29, 2022 09:07PM ● By Justin Adams
Pitcher Maryn Murdock is one of eight senior leaders for the Mountain Ridge softball team this year. (Justin Adams/City Journals)
By Justin Adams | [email protected]
When it comes to high school athletics, many teams who make it to a state championship game are due for a rebuilding year as they lose a talented group of players to graduation. But the Mountain Ridge softball team is poised to make another run, led by a core of players who were just juniors last year.
“We have eight seniors and our first baseman is a junior. All nine of them have been playing since the school opened up,” said head coach Andre Ashton.
One of those seniors is shortstop Taegan Smith, who was named to the 5A All-State team last year, following a season in which she hit 18 home runs and 66 RBIs.
Sisters Tosha (catcher) and Tessa (second baseman) Hokanson also return for their senior years. While Ashton said every girl on the team is a leader in their own way, he sees the Hockanson sisters and Smith as the leaders of the team.
“They’ve been leaders since day one, even when they were sophomores,” he said. “They set the example on the field and in the classroom - all three of them are 4.0 students. They’re three kids that we rely on.”
With such strong senior leadership, the team has high expectations for themselves.
“We expect to be one of those teams that’s playing towards the end of the season. Obviously you have to get wins and play the right way to get there. But it’s definitely a goal for us,” Ashton said.
Of course, the Sentinels will be going up against a new 6A region this year, one that features the two teams that played for the 6A championship last year in Riverton and Bingham.
“Our region is really, really tough,” Ashton said. “We have such good pitching in our region. It’s going to be tough every single region game that we have. But I think we have tough girls, we have good leadership and girls that expect to make the right play.”
To help prepare the team for the daunting region schedule, the coaches scheduled a preseason trip down to Las Vegas to play in a tournament. The team played five games in three days, winning all but one. Their sole loss came against Oaks Christian, whose pitcher is one of the top-ranked in the nation and is committed to play for Notre Dame.
Going up against such strong competition to start the season has already proved beneficial for the Sentinels. In their first game back in Utah, they eked out a narrow 6-5 win over Skyridge. “I think if we wouldn’t have gone to Vegas and seen the kinds of pitching we did, today would have been a lot tougher for us,” Ashton said following the game.
Even more important than the tough competition was the experience of traveling out of state as a team, something the program hadn’t been able to do in its first two years of existence because of COVID-19 restrictions.
“The kids being in hotel rooms and being around each other for four days straight, it was important for our program to have those bonding experiences,” Ashton said.
It seems to have paid off, as the Sentinels haven’t lost since returning to Utah (at least, as of the Herriman Journal’s press deadline) and have outscored opponents 41-14.