San Juan softball team outlasts Grand in thriller, smokes Kirtland to open season
by Rhett Sifford
The San Juan High School softball team is 2-0 to start the 2023 season and they’ve outscored their opponents 31-15 in the opening two games of the year.
They began with an exciting 10-8 extra-innings win over local rival Grand County on Tuesday, March 7, then followed that up with a 21-7 shellacking of Kirtland Central on Thursday, March 9.
In the first game of the season against Grand in Moab the Lady Broncos opened the scoring with two runs in the top of the first inning. The Lady Red Devils responded to score one in the bottom of the first and two in their half of the second inning.
San Juan tied the game at three with a run in the top of the third, but Grand answered with three runs in the bottom of the inning to take a 6-3 lead.
The rivals played two scoreless innings before the Lady Broncos plated three runs in the top of the sixth to once again tie the game. Neither team scored for the next inning and a half, and the contest headed to extra innings.
The extension of the game didn’t last long as the teams combined for six runs in the eighth. San Juan scored four in the top of the frame and Grand County scored two, resulting in a thrilling 10-8 season-opening comeback for the Lady Broncos.
Hailie Palmer and Trinity Whatcott led the San Juan attack with three runs batted in apiece. Whatcott was two of three on the day with a triple and Palmer was two of four.
Adriana Johnson was also 2-of-3 at the plate and drove in one run. Sadie Cosby, Elise Dalley, and Khatira Keith all drove in one run apiece in the win.
Trinity Whatcott had a solid start on the mound, allowing three runs on two hits while striking out two in two innings of work.
But freshman Khatira Keith was even more impressive for the Lady Broncos. She came on to pitch six innings, striking out seven Grand County batters and earning her first win of the season. She allowed five runs on six hits in the victory.
Game two of the young season was less of a challenge as San Juan traveled to Kirtland, NM this past Thursday for a showdown with another group of Lady Broncos.
San Juan scored at least four runs in every inning, putting Kirtland down easily in four 21-7. As of the San Juan Record press deadline, no San Juan statistics are available for the game.
Longtime Lady Bronco Head Coach Mike Bowers recently shared some thoughts on his new team and the new season via email. Here are his comments:
Rhett Sifford: Tell me a little bit about your process these last few weeks getting ready for the season.
Coach Bowers: The beginning of the season has been tough. Of course this is the case for most teams. We did our best to work on fundamentals and building the team concept. We hold a Super Saturday each year to introduce team building skills and our team expectations.
Sifford: In the smaller schools like you guys, players are participating in different sports and activities all through the year. Is it tough to get the team prepared for softball with such a tight schedule?
Bowers: Multi-sport athletes are tough to get work from especially during the season in which they play. However, I would much rather have multi-sport athletes on my team. This athlete is in better shape both physically and mentally.
If they learn how to compete and recover from failure in a previous sport, they are a more gritty athlete. They don’t spend as much time in the failure zone and recover quicker than a player who doesn’t compete in other sports.
Sifford: Tell me about your team this season.
Bowers: The 2023 softball season will be an exciting time for San Juan. We have more experienced players returning from last season. Additionally, we have a large freshman class that has played summer ball for a number of years. We will have depth at every position this season, something we lacked last season.
Sifford: Who do you expect to step up into leadership roles?
Bowers: We have a group of seniors I hope will demonstrate leadership qualities (Adri Johnson, Naataanii Lacy, Avina Cordova, Kaeah Howard, and Hailie Palmer).
However, we expect all our players to work at leading. Trinity Whatcott, an All-State returning junior is another player I expect to have a leadership role on the team.
Sifford: Has anyone improved greatly from what you remember last season?
Bowers: Elise Dalley, a sophomore catcher, has made great strides in the craft of catching.
Sifford: What’s the feeling you get from your players as you start the year?
Bowers: To this point we haven’t seen the panic we witnessed much of last year. Each girl is working hard and doing her best. Additionally, the girls are very coachable and eager to learn. This is hard to teach!
Sifford: What do you think your strengths are going to be?
Bowers: Our main strength will be our depth at every position. This year we have four pitchers and catchers each. Pitchers are Trinity Whatcott, Khatira Keith, Kaidence Mitchell, and Averie Gilson. Catchers are Synessa Atcitty, Morgann Mcpherson, Madden Perkins, and Elise Dalley.
Sifford: Where might you be weak?
Bowers: Our weakness depends on the team. They must trust the process and surrender the “me” for the “we” – get out of themselves and into the team. If they trust the process and each player understands her role and works to improve each day, we will not have many weaknesses.
Sifford: What goals do you have as a team? Coaching staff?
Bowers: Our goal is to improve each day. Show P.R.I.D.E – Personal Responsibility Daily Effort. As always we hope to teach our players that softball is a great sport through which to learn life’s lessons.
Sifford: Can you tell me about the coaches who will be helping you this year?
Bowers: I have an amazing coaching staff. Ashley Cosby and Misty Perkins are players who played for me and know how the program works. They were on the 1998 state runner-up team.
Sasha Singer is a dedicated coach who knows a lot about the game. Gracee Bowers played for Craig Swenson while I was an assistant coach. She’s gritty and almost as competitive as her dad…
Kellie Palmer Mills played under Coach Swenson teams that enjoyed much success and state championships.
The coaching staff is rounded out with Coach Charlie Taylor, who has coached with me since our days together at San Juan Baseball. He’s loyal, knows the game, and does anything asked of him with diligence and study.
The Lady Broncos have had a few days to get ready for the second week of the season, but this weekend will be busy and will include a lengthy road trip against tough competition.
The girls are headed to St. George to play in the 2023 March Warm Up Classic and will face Cottonwood, Kanab, and Altamont on Friday, March 17. They’ll take on Bonneville (Idaho) and Brighton on Saturday, March 18.