The Utah Tech University softball team is strategizing to mirror the success of last year as they start their fall season against in-state universities.
The team ended last year as the Western Athletic Conference regular season champions with a conference record of 19-5 and an overall record of 35-19. Conference play for the Trailblazers won’t start until spring 2024.
For now, the Trailblazers will commence the fall season by playing the University of Utah as well as Weber State University in Salt Lake City Sept. 30.
Head coach Randy Simkins returns for his 14th season inside the Trailblazers dugout. As he led the team to the title of regular season champions, Simkins was also named the 2023 WAC coach of the year. Simkins said the expectations are high coming into the season because the team is trying to repeat last year’s achievements.
“I think we have the talent to do it,” Simkins said. “It’s going to be a matter of finding the right combination on the field and on the lineup that will get it done.”
Fresh faces open up a new roster from last year. With nine new players, two transfers and seven freshmen, the team’s chemistry and ability to play together will play a crucial role in the success of the season.
Along with new athletes, the team also welcomes Marissa Chavez and Faith Hoe as assistant coaches.
Tyler Denhart, a senior criminal justice major from Seal Beach, California, said the team feels confident and is ready to start the season despite having a young new team.
“We lost a lot of seniors last year, so obviously the new players are here to step up,” Denhart said. “But, I think our team has been blending really well and grinding it out.”
During the offseason, Simkins said the team worked on every aspect of the game from hitting the batting cages, going to the weight room, and attending team scrimmages and mentorship meetings. The team has put in the time and effort to get better, but now it’s time to put the training to the test.
Rachel Campbell, a senior exercise science major from Castle Rock, Colorado, said communication was an area where the team could improve. Campbell said she is aiming to adopt a more relaxed approach to the season.
“I hold myself to the highest standard to play really well, and if I don’t meet these expectations, I get really disappointed in myself,” Campbell said. “So this year, I’m just trying to relax a little bit and not be so upset when mistakes happen.”
The time to prepare is at an end as the Trailblazers head into the start of the fall season. Simkins said during the fall is when they fine-tune their lineup and decide which players have earned the title of team captains.
After competing in Salt Lake City, the team will host the first home opener against Utah State University Eastern at the Karl Brooks Field at 3 p.m. Oct. 6.