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Midvale Journal

Hillcrest softball, baseball compete in region, state; prepare to play new teams next season

Jul 06, 2021 03:25PM ● By Julie Slama

Hillcrest High junior Maddie Sluga unleashes a pitch to Cottonwood Colts in their home game on April 28. (Julie Slama/City Journals)

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

Hillcrest High junior pitcher Maddie Sluga wants to play Box Elder High next season.

That despite being shutout in back-to-back games by them in the second-round of state softball playoffs this past spring.

“It did end, not as we hoped,” she said. “Box Elder was in a very hard region, so they were ranked way higher than us. They are a really good team.”

The playoffs did hit during finals and many of the Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate exams at the end of the school year, but Sluga didn’t take that as an excuse.

“I don’t know why. I feel like we could have had more energy during them (the playoffs); there wasn’t as much as we have had like the whole season…and that was like a big reason why we didn’t do better. We did try our hardest,” she said. “I would want to play them again.”

Hillcrest’s first-year coach Ashley Anjewierden agrees that the Bees are strong.

“They have a lot of good teams in their region, and ours isn’t in the same strength as that. We haven’t seen pitching like that before,” she said. “It was awesome to see the girls step up their play this year and play in the second round of playoffs.”

This year, the former five-year Husky assistant coach gave the team a different feel to their season.

“The schedule was designed to build confidence. We played teams of a similar level. In the past, teams would pound us, and we’d get washed out, and that’s just the mentality of the past few years. Now we have more confidence after our first three wins of the season, so we can play more competitive teams,” Anjewierden said adding that the team focused more on base running and game situations in their practices than in previous years.

Those early wins of 16-1 over Juan Diego Catholic High, 12-11 over Green Canyon in North Logan and a 21-11 over Providence Hall set the Huskies up for two wins against Brighton, Highland and Skyline and splitting games against Cottonwood. The team finished fourth in region, just ahead of Cottonwood.

“We came in with a different mentality, one that holds them to higher expectations. We weren’t there to play, but to compete and the kids were pushed harder. We’ve come away with seasons of only a couple wins previously and this year, we went 12-9, 7-5 in region. We’re rebranding Hillcrest athletics and it’s a good start for softball,” she said.

Sluga agreed there was much improvement.

“I felt like it went really well; we definitely did much better than in the past,” she said. “I just think there was a lot of talent on the team this year.”

That includes freshman Brooklyn Ricci, who plays catcher and pitcher; and pitcher Lilly Hutchings; and seniors shortstop and pitcher Shay Thomas; outfielder Shay Minoughan, and outfielder Haley Chapman.

“We just had a better team dynamic this year; everyone got along. Everyone always had positive attitudes,” Sluga said about the full season of play after only getting in three games last year because of the cancellation of spring sports with the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Huskies are losing seven seniors (including their entire outfield) who all lettered, but Anjewierden expects the team to be able to compete in their new region that will include Tooele “who competes well and is a solid team,” Payson “who has a large team that can compete” and Uintah, where “they play softball there.”

This summer, many of the players are practicing on club teams, but Anjewierden expects to have some open practices occasionally in the summer, fall and winter leading up to the season.

“A lot of them are playing club ball and that’s good,” she said. “They can bring what they learn there to the team and we can all learn from each other.”

In baseball, the Huskies placed sixth in region, with a record of 4-10. 

The boys won both games against East and Highland. They played Bonneville in the first round, falling 8-16.