Prep softball • Roy is the defending Class 4A state champs.
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Roy coach Mandy Koford looks down her lineup and sees questions marks.
The Royals have been a softball powerhouse, winning three titles in two different classifications over the past four years. But as snow gives way to opening pitches, Koford faces a season of uncertainty.
"We're an extremely young team," she said. "I only have one senior."
That lone senior, however, is about as good as they come.
Shortstop Jordynn Barrera blasted five home runs and 17 extra-base hits for the Royals during her junior campaign. Her two doubles and one RBI in last year's title game helped secure her second championship ring and The Salt Lake Tribune 4A MVP honors.
The leadoff hitter would love to slip a third ring on her fingers, but Barrera said this season is about helping her teammates get better.
"I'm extremely grateful for the past two championships I have won," she said. "But I think this year is going to be more of a developing leadership type of year for me. It's a chance to grow and hopefully have the other girls look up to me."
On the diamond, Barrera is there to help her teammates with glove work and technique, to quiz them on game scenarios. In the hallways and the lunch room, she's there to answer any questions the underclassmen might have.
"She couldn't be more of a leader," Koford said.
The Royals' coaching staff has looked to Barrera for help, too.
"I've been relying a lot on Jordynn and her eye and who she thinks should fill these spots that her friends have left," Koford said.
First baseman Kylie Blau should provide a punch in the lineup batting after Barrera, but beyond that Koford said there are seven spots in the lineup that are up for grabs.
Tempered expectations in Roy could mean an open door for other schools.
But Barrera and Koford have seen firsthand how a team can catch "lightning in a bottle" and make a run during a season.
"Nobody expected us to even show up in the state tournament last year," Barrera said. "It was the most gratifying feeling I could get honestly to come back and ... show it doesn't matter what anyone else says."
Especially when a team has a player like Barrera.
The senior has loved the game since she started playing T-ball at age 5. Next year, she will play at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y.
For now, the star of the Roy team still is the first one on the practice field and the one lugging the bucket of softballs.
"She's the girl that lives and dies for softball," Koford said. "If I'm only going to start one senior, I'm glad it's her."
• Bear River High School has won a record five straight championships in Class 3A. Can the Bears push that number to six this season?
• Class 5A champion Weber lost a pair of all-state seniors in shortstop Taylor Stroud and outfielder Nicole Weiss. But the Warriors return plenty of talent in all-state second baseman Erin Reichle and 5A MVP pitcher McKenna Bull.
• Stansbury outfielder Katelyn Robinson hit .552 last season, which ranked ninth best all-time. Can the career .454 hitter top that performance in her senior campaign?
Last season's state champions
Class 5A • Weber
Class 4A • Roy
Class 3A • Bear River
Class 2A • Manti