Prep softball: Young Alta team begins to soar

Prep softball • Alta is trying to win its first region title since 2001.
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Sandy • The Alta softball team, which is playing with composure beyond its years and talent that ranks among the best in Class 5A, is on the verge of hanging a region banner for the first time since 2001.

That's right — 2001 — when some of the current Hawks barely were out of diapers.

"We are well aware and we're very hungry for it," said senior Tori Brooks, one of just two upperclassmen on the roster. "We know it's been a long time coming, and the past three years I've been on the team have been amazing. We just have to put our best foot forward and play our best."

The Hawks enter the week atop the Region 3 standings, winners of 10 of 12. The Hawks are defying the odds, riding the left arm of freshman Brooke Vander Heide and the right arm of sophomore Brittni Chase.

Too young to think about what they already have accomplished? Maybe. Or too composed to let their youth be an excuse for not getting the job done.

"It's not surprising to me because seeing the team early on, I knew the potential they had," Alta coach Tiffani Airmet said. "They're young, but they are so tough and they work so hard. We've been talking about how softball really doesn't have an age and how you can still step up any given day."

Airmet said last weekend's 5-4 victory against Bingham in the Swing For Life tournament best illustrated how the Hawks maintain their composure. A 5-0 lead quickly became a one-run game, but the Hawks finished the job and beat a fellow state title contender 8-4.

"They just stay relaxed and stay composed," Airmet said. "I continually have to keep them relaxed. I expected a pressure crack against Bingham, but they were able to relax and calm down and get more runs."

Hawks pitchers have posted four shutouts in their past seven outings entering the week, but the solid pitching has been only half the story. One could argue it's easy to pitch when you constantly pitch with big leads.

Alta entered the week second in Class 5A in runs scored at an average of more than 7.5 per game.

"It makes it easier because I know they have my back," Vander Heide said. "It's a cushion for me, and I don't have to be perfect."

While ending the region title drought is the next goal on the checklist, the Hawks are playing for something bigger.

They've already beaten Viewmont, the top team from Region 2, and are looking to erase some disappointing performances in the state tournament.

The Hawks haven't won more than one game in the double-elimination tournament since they won the state title in 2004.

"I think some of the teams that we've beat have built our confidence," Airmet said. "We feel we can beat anybody. Our goal every day — every practice and every game — is have fun and get better. Every day we're doing that." —

Hawk of a Run

Alta won its first six region games this season and allowed just eight runs in those games.

With just two seniors on the roster, the Hawks are relying heavily on sophomores and freshmen.

The Hawks' left side of the infield is composed of sophomores. Shortstop Callie Blackham has three home runs, while third baseman Karsten Williams has seven extra-base hits entering the week.