Corner Canyon softball introduces newcomers to sport and places sixth at state
Jun 11, 2018 02:50PM
● By Catherine Garrett
The Corner Canyon High girls softball team surround the Region 7 championship plaque. (Photo courtesy Troy Johnson)
By Catherine Garrett | [email protected]
Call them the “comeback kids,” the “turn-around bunch,” “underdogs,” “new kids on the block” — these Corner Canyon High softball players don’t care. The results speak for themselves, and this group of Chargers dug deep, amid doubters, after an 0-7 start to the year with nine newcomers to the sport to tie for sixth at the 5A state tournament in late May.
“What a phenomenal achievement for these girls,” first-year head coach Chris Opheikens said. “We went from recruiting athletes in the athletic hallway and teaching girls from scratch, taking several girls that had never played, to being there at the end.”
“It was the best feeling in the world to turn it around when a lot of people doubted us,” CCHS junior pitcher and Region 7 MVP Lexi Parker said. “We fired back at them and proved them wrong. That’s the coolest thing about our team.”
At the state tournament, Corner Canyon defeated Skyridge 6-4 before losing to eventual state champion Box Elder 8-1. In the consolation bracket, the Chargers moved themselves back into contention with wins over Woods Cross 5-2 and Springville 9-7 before losing to West, 5A’s top-ranked team, 13-2, to end a 16-13 season.
“We really did all come together and we expected ourselves to be there at the end even though no one else did,” Opheikens said. “This is one of my best coaching moments ever with such a huge accomplishment for these girls.”
“We definitely played through the underdog role at state,” Parker said.
The Region 7 champion squad was led by its five returning starters who were named First Team All-Region. They included Parker, junior third baseman Abbi Opheikens, junior shortstop Josie Haycock, junior second baseman Brooke Meyers and sophomore catcher Whitney Opheikens.
Parker had a 4-3 record on the mound this season and felt “excited, honored and shocked” to be named Region 7 MVP. Meyers hit four home runs and the Opheikens sisters combined for a home run and 13 doubles on the year to help lead the team offensively.
“They were the nucleus of our team,” Coach Opheikens said.
Losing the first seven games this season wasn’t exactly how Corner Canyon had expected the season to begin, but Coach Opheikens said that even though he wondered what he had gotten into at that point, he knew the program had the players to turn things around. “It really was about positive reinforcement, building a little at a time and getting them all to do it,” he said.
“That rocky start gave us all a little doubt in our minds, but I decided that it was my job to take everyone on my back and we started to take it one game at a time,” Parker said. “We just had to learn how to utilize the talent that we had.”
The Chargers — using an outfield of entirely brand new softball players and several others playing out of position — then went on a seven-game winning streak, and from there Corner Canyon began building the confidence that led to closing out a 9-1 region season and outscoring opponents 182-56 up until the postseason.
“The girls pulled together and it really was them teaching each other and learning together,” Coach Opheikens said. “It was crazy, but they really dug deep and it’s been a proud ‘dad’ moment to watch all of my girls end the season so well.”
Others on the 2018 squad were senior Quinn Wansel; juniors Jessica Nemelka, Hannah Knoop and Mia Kunkal; sophomores Abby Kleinman, Maggie Ramos, Olivia Sunderland, Mckenna Jealy and Emory Smith; and freshman Anna Nemelka, Selma Kohler, Lauren Dupree, Rylee Taylor and Sydney Taylor.
“They were all really productive players and hopefully we got a good foundation moving forward,” Coach Opheikens said.
Opheikens was assisted on the coaching staff by Troy Johnson, Steph Losee and Lyndsay Walker.