Softball team, 1-1 in early season, seeks to prove doubters wrong
In the Deseret News’ preseason softball power rankings, Park City polled last in Region 11.
Coach Shannon Gebbia kind of likes that – it’s motivating her players.
“They are fired up about it,” she said. “They’ve seen the rankings and they’ve brought it up and it’s fueling them a little bit.”
But, like her players, Gebbia also thinks their placement is wrong.
She thinks the team is better than last season’s squad, even as they have split their first two games of the season, which started with a 21-0 loss to Bonneville on the road on Tuesday. In their second game they defeated Skyline 12-10 in Millcreek on Wednesday.
While the Bonneville result smacks of last season’s Miners, who lost to the Lakers 18-0 in both of their meetings, the win against Skyline suggests growth. They lost to the non-region Eagles 15-12 in their only meeting last season.
This time, the Miners took control early, going up 12-4 before a six-run streak by the Eagles in the fifth.
“I was really proud of how we kept our composure,” Gebbia said. “We hit the ball really well; we adjusted to the pitching.”
Then there was the Miners’ pitching, an element of the game the Miners have sorely missed in years past.
But for at least this season, the team has have an answer in transfer duo Diana and Andrea Boyce, who joined the district when their family moved from Arizona last summer.
Diana, a senior, pitched at Phoenix Christian High School in Phoenix.
“They have definitely jumped right in and joined the team and elevated us,” Gebbia said.
On Wednesday, Diana pitched the whole game.
“The leadoff batter in the bottom of the seventh got on base and wound up making it all the way to third on steals and passed balls, but Diana struck out the next three batters to win the game,” Gebbia said. “It’s a lot of fun to see.”
In past years, the lack of pitching talent had left the Miners in a position where their batters could hardly ever outscore an opposing team, even when their bats were hot.
“It’s just a base hit here, a double, a triple, over and over plus a few defensive errors on top of that and you just can’t hang,” she said. “We’re hoping that with a few pitchers coming in who have knowledge, and not learning (the game) from the beginning as 14-year-olds, we can continue to grow from where we have made a foundation.”
The Miners also start this season after losing just two seniors: starting second baseman Salina Ochoa, and Taylor Fodera.
Senior Vanessa Heredia returns to her starting position as catcher alongside sophomore Taylor Lundbeck, who is playing softball for the first time in high school after a year playing baseball.
Gebbia said Lundbeck is still adjusting to the subtleties of softball, but will be an asset to the team. In addition to catcher, Lundbeck has played outfield and infield for the team.
“She’s just a hard worker,” Gebbia said. “We’re excited to have her on.”
Senior Amanda Riely returns to shortstop, where she has started for the past three years. Junior Ari Clevenger takes second base, while several players are being considered for first, including senior captain Annie Sheinberg.
Senior Tiana Clevenger will start in left field, junior Landon Albright will likely play several different outfield positions over the season.
Kyra Larson and Hannah Smoak, two freshmen, are also playing varsity this season. Both have experience with the game, which is somewhat rare for incoming players, Gebbia said.
“They come in with a great bat, which is one of the issues we face: Teaching swinging mechanics from bare minimum,” she said. “It’s nice when they come in with knowledge and skill.”
They will both play some infield over the season, and Larson will likely help on the mound.
The Miners will take on Ben Lomond on Tuesday, and Ogden that Friday – both are scheduled for 3:30 p.m. and will likely be away games due to the amount of snow still on the Miners’ diamond.
And, if the Miners’ opponents are anything like they were last year, it will be a chance for the Miners to pick up a win or two. Last season, the Miners beat Ben Lomond twice, and split games against Ogden.
It’s a chance for the team to prove the rankings wrong.
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The Miners ended up on the wrong side of a close game on senior night but are still fighting for playoff seeding.