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Salem • In many respects, baseball and softball are quite similar. Players play the same positions. The object is to hit a ball safely on a diamond.
But there is one big difference, as exemplified by Salem Hills pitcher Kirtlyn Bohling, this year's Salt Lake Tribune prep softball Most Valuable Player. Where baseball pitchers need to rest regularly due to the unnatural overhand throwing motion, the underhand style of softball pitchers means they need less rest.
Bohling pitched every game a year ago when Salem Hills came out of nowhere to win the state Class 4A softball championship. And this year, in compiling a 26-7 record with a 0.97 earned run average, 312 strikeouts and a batting average of .299, the senior star pitched all but one game in leading the Skyhawks to a second title.
"We don't have a pitch limit," said Bohling. "Underhand is a natural motion. During the summer, I throw five or six games in a day."
But pitching nearly every game for a state championship team two years running takes more than a little bit of toughness, both mental and physical.
"What do you say about Kirtlyn Bohling?" said her coach, Renae Kinghorn, who is in the process of moving back to Georgia. "Honestly, she is phenomenal. She is an athlete, and you don't come across athletes like her very often. She is truly special. Her athletic ability is unmatched. But her drive, her work ethic, her consistency and the love and support she shows her teammates, along with her humility, is phenomenal. She is just an unmatched player. I have never really seen an athlete quite like her, especially at the high school level."
Bohling said she has been playing softball "forever," starting in kindergarten. Living in nearby Spanish Fork when she was growing up certainly didn't hurt. That southern Utah County city is known for its softball and baseball programs and has some of the state's best facilities for both sports.
"Softball and baseball are big sports," she said. "In Spanish Fork and Salem Hills, it's definitely the emphasis."
Bohling said the experiences of winning two straight state championships could not have been more different.
Last year, the Skyhawks had lost 10 seniors, but were largely unknown. After Salem Hills won that title, every opponent knew about the Skyhawks and came out and played their best against them this year.
"A few teams beat us when we didn't expect to lose," said Bohling. "We had to work hard and play our best."
That was evident early in the state tournament. The Skyhawks lost to Bonneville in the first round and had to come through the losers' bracket to win the title, eventually beating the Lakers twice to capture the title.
"That was fun," said Bohling. "It gave us more games especially for the seniors than we expected."
That is typical of the pitcher's attitude. She said she loves sports because it is something she can often control.
"If your whole day is crappy, you can choose to work hard and choose to control your attitude," said the senior star. "It was kind of a release for me. It makes life better."
Bohling has accepted a scholarship at Weber State because of the school's radiology program and due to coach Mary Kay Amicone. A straight-A student, Bohling didn't know what radiology was until learning about it when serving an internship at a Payson hospital.
"It was cool," she said. "You could find stuff in the body without having to do blood and guts. I saw broken bones and stuff kids had swallowed."
Bohling also could see herself becoming a coach, largely because of the influence of Kinghorn, who she said had a major influence in her entire life, not just softball. She would like to return the favor to other girls in the future.
"She teaches us to do something, to work at it and to be the best that you can," Bohling said of Kinghorn's influence. "She sets the bar high for us. She makes us be on time and to go to school every day. She is so strict., We said that if you are disciplined in one part of your life, you can be disciplined in the rest."
Bohling said Kinghorn once told her players to write five thank-you notes to people in their lives to let them know they were appreciated. She said sports have taught her many things.
"You work as hard as you can and, if you apply that to any part of your life, you can do your best," she said. "They taught me to push through the stuff that is hard. Things get better if you keep working."