Charger softball marches toward region title, salutes fallen heroes
Sophomore Josee Haycock slides into third in Corner Canyon’s 16-14 win over Timpanogos. (Travis Barton/City Journals)
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On the back of Josee Haycock’s jersey isn’t her name, nor does it have anything to do with the Corner Canyon softball team that she leads as a captain. It reads, “Ssgt. Barton,” in honor of fallen military member sergeant Zack Barton.
“[The military] give everything to defend our country and our freedoms and for me to be able to play softball because of them is something that I will never forget,” said Haycock, a sophomore third baseman.
Every navy jersey, with stars spangled on its left sleeve, of the Corner Canyon softball team holds a name for the girls to represent a fallen soldier. It is part of the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS), an organization that provides comfort and solace to families of fallen military members.
The girls are in contact with each family of the soldier they represent. Many families and Patriot Guard riders attend Charger softball games.
“I’ve learned to love [Barton’s] family and they’ve adopted me into their family, I’m like their own daughter,” Haycock said.
For two seasons now, Charger softball has not only done TAPS, but also a military game against Alta where the families are presented and recognized.
“It was seriously the coolest experience. You get to see them in person, cause sometimes you forget that they're real…then you see their families and it's like a really humbling experience,” said senior captain Cheyanne Gates.
In a season filled with potential and possibility, it has helped unify the team. During its tournament in St. George, the team sat down sharing their family stories.
“You want them to have a personal cause,” said head coach Garrett Hone. “This is personal for all of them.”
Internalizing the cause for each player will help keep their feet on the ground in a year that’s shaping up to be a memorable one for Charger softball. With eight returning starters and three contributing freshmen, Hone has a special roster before him.
“I’ve coached for 12 years, even at Spanish Fork, there were some united teams but I’ve never seen a team like this. They love each other, it's great,” Hone said.
Corner Canyon went 3-6 in a preseason that saw the team suffer a six-game losing streak. With five of those losses coming against top tier teams from every classification in the state—such as Spanish Fork, Uintah, Bear River and Box Elder—Hone said it’s a purposeful schedule and those losing scores didn’t properly reflect the games.
“I know they believe that they can beat mediocre teams, but when it comes to the top dogs in the state… It’s just getting them to believe that they can compete with that caliber of team,” he said.
Since that 3-6 start, the Chargers have torn through region with a plus-61 run differential after six games.
Gates, a middle infielder, said the difference has been both their run production and defense.
“We have one of the best defenses in the state right now. I think that's what's really helping us,” Gates said.
Ironically, there was no better display of that defense than in its windy 16-14 win over Timpanogos.
With two outs in the bottom of the seventh, heavy gusts turning fly balls into home runs and the T-Wolves rallying; sophomore Brooke Myers made a circus catch at the wall to end the game.
“Our outfield is stellar. Brooke Myers going through a fence and robbing a home run. I mean even our infield, I’ve got an infield that a lot of college coaches would love,” Hone said.
To reach the pinnacle its climbing towards, defense will be essential.
“There will be teams who hit the ball just as well as we do (at state). Our defense, keeping those runs from scoring, is what's going to win a championship,” Haycock said.
It’s their hitting that might scare teams the most. That same Timpanogos game saw the Chargers hit back-to-back-to-back homers.
“We hit one through nine, so when I say we can hit, we can hit,” he said.
It’s a batting order that features more left-handed batters than typically seen on a high school team.
Myers, who hits lefty, is what’s called a “slapper” where the batter almost starts running as they hit the ball. But Hone said she can hit for power or the short game so teams don’t know whether to play back or forward.
Hone said with so many right-handed pitchers, it’s great to have a lineup with lefties.
“Lefties see right handers so much better, I call it the lefty complex. I am a fan of lefties because they see the ball so well and it’s so hard as a pitcher to pitch to them,” he said.
Haycock attributes much of their ability at the plate to preparation prior to the season.
“We have definitely worked really hard to be better ball players,” she said. “We did weightlifting and agility so all of us are just so much more athletic this year and stronger and I think that's really helped our hitting come on.”
With region winding to a close and a state tournament on the horizon, the team’s hopes are simple. Sharpen players’ decision making and go far in state.
“Win region for sure and state will come when it comes,” Gates said.