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Midvale Journal

Hillcrest High father-daughter duo leads the softball team to state playoffs

Jun 02, 2023 11:58AM ● By Julie Slama

Hillcrest High junior Brooklyn Ricci is on the state high school softball leaderboard.

She is sixth in batting average (.720), 16th with 21 runs batted in; and 12th with five home runs, tied with her teammate, sophomore Sky Salazar-Bell. As primarily a catcher, Ricci already has verbally committed to play softball at Utah Valley University.

When asked about the season, she responds about the team.

“We’re just stoked; it’s exciting to see our hard work paying off,” she said. “This is the best season for Hillcrest when I’ve played on the team. Our team bond is strong and everything’s clicking and coming together position-wise and athletically.”

At 10-16 overall, the Huskies made the 5A state tournament, seeded 23rd. State finals began on May 25, the same day as six seniors on the team were to graduate.

“Our team attitude is to have a fun time and to get better. Everyone is putting in the work and we’re improving,” Ricci said. “I never put a goal on myself to have a certain number of home runs. I just aim to get better. Lifting is a huge part of it for me. I go and lift every day to get better and that helps our team.”

Her dedication, even while on vacation and using a hotel gym, has helped the Huskies beat all the Canyons School District high school teams, plus score wins against Summit Academy, Cottonwood, Granger, Richfield and Park City high schools.

There have been some losses down the stretch, but her dad, coach Anthony Ricci said those were close despite the score.

“Even though it doesn’t look like it, we would have just one inning get away from us— and that was the difference of the game,” he said. “If we could take that one inning back and get that third out, we’d be in many more games. We have a tough region, so I try to take the little wins because the scoreboard does not tell how much better each of the girls is getting nor how much better our team is getting collectively.”

The season’s schedule became more compacted as inclement weather forced back the season. Multiple weeks they played three or four games per week, one week they even played five games.

“I feel even with the bad weather conditions, our team played really well,” the catcher said. “It was challenging, but it was harder getting my schoolwork done. We were missing so much class time. We did our homework on the bus and the team helped each other.”

The student-athlete started playing softball when she was 7, after initially being a gymnast and a swimmer.

“I didn’t want to do softball, but my dad wanted me to try it. Once I got into it, I fell in love with the sport,” she said. “I like how it’s a team sport and the social part; everybody’s super goofy and you can be yourself. It’s not like someone is being bratty or stuck up; we want to have fun and play softball.”

In addition to team workouts, Ricci, who also has pitched some games, hits the gym to do a lot of stretching, cardio, uses the Stairmaster and goes to the sauna “to just relax and let my muscles breathe. I just go after practice and kind of work on my own things that I know I have to work on.”

That may include throwing from her knees to improving the speed on her curveballs.

“It’s very mentally challenging to prepare myself to switch positions during a game. Physically, I can do it, but mentally I need to remind myself that even if someone hits off me, my teammate can make a good play. We’re helping each other out and my team has my back,” she said.

Ricci already is looking forward to playing UVU softball for a coach she has known through softball camps. She said she wanted to stay close to home so her family can watch her games.

“My mom is my No. 1 supporter; she makes it to every game,” she said. “My dad and I always have had a close bond, but with this, it’s great we can work together to support each other.”

That extends even when her dad is coaching her.

“My dad is there to make us better but also make sure we’re still in love with the sport and he wants to make sure we have fun and he’s very positive. When we lose, he likes to pick up a little wins out of the game—even if we cheered loud to better the team. When we had positive attitudes, and we played our 100%, that’s all we can do,” Ricci said.

Her father is equally honored to coach her.

“It means a lot,” he said. “When there are good days, we celebrate. When there are bad days, we just let softball be softball and not let it get in between our family. Brooklyn knows how to lead a team by example. She just all-around great kid. I’m very fortunate to have her on my team, but I’m more blessed to have her as a daughter.”

He appreciates the leadership from the seniors on his team: Jacqueline Anderson, Stella Robins, Cammy Castleton and Sadie Hutchins.

“Many of them help nurture the younger players. They kind of take them under their wing and teach them if they need help,” he said.

Hillcrest has a JV team as well as a freshman/sophomore squad, although with only one other team in region having a third team, most of the time, the girls played up.

“We don’t have a big pool of players who have played comp(etitive) softball, so we’re hoping that these players will play some summer ball, get in more reps and get more experience,” he said. “We’ve had more fans come to our softball games in our new stadium to support our team. We are in a good place now and take every day, every game and every competitor that’s in front of us and kind of prepare for that.”  λ