Prep softball: Stoddard a cornerstone in Bountiful's success
Belle Stoddard's perfect game against Highland last week was the culmination of hard work.
Bountiful's ace pitcher is humbled by how far she's come after putting in countless hours to develop her talents.
"I'm so blessed to be surrounded by such great people," Stoddard said. "The school has been so supportive. It's like a family atmosphere. Everyone strives to help you be your best. A perfect game comes from having a perfect team. It was a great start to what I hope to be a great season."
Stoddard, one of four returning seniors for the Braves, went 12-3 in the circle last season and hit .486. She was named to the Class 4A first team after helping Bountiful win the Region 6 championship (14-1) and finish 22-7 overall. The Braves advanced to the 4A quarterfinals before losing to Roy then Salem Hills.
Stoddard is eager to pick up where the team left off last season.
"We have such high expectations for this season," Stoddard said. "We're all best friends, and there's no other school I'd rather represent. I just try to be the best leader I can be by example. Each year we've gotten better and better."
Stoddard has been a model of consistency since joining the varsity team midway through her freshman year. Not known as a strikeout pitcher, she relies more on her off-speed pitches to keep hitters off-balance. The curveball is her favorite pitch, but she also throws a screwball, rise, drop and change.
Bountiful coach Butch Latey said Stoddard is at her best when she keeps opposing hitters guessing at the plate.
"Her biggest progress is with ball movement and keeping the ball low," Latey said. "Her speed has increased, but she's pretty much a groundball pitcher. When she gets it up, she gets in trouble, but she's improved in that. She can really hit spots. If I had five good pitchers over the years, she's one of the top five."
At the plate, Stoddard has performed well as Bountiful's cleanup hitter. She blasted five home runs last season and has gotten bigger, faster and stronger as she has grown. Her pitching and hitting prowess were enough for Snow College to offer her a full scholarship, which she gladly accepted.
"It's a perfect fit, and I get to go play what I love," said Stoddard, who aspires to be an occupational therapist. "I'm going to work hard and prove to them that I want to play and start. I'm not trying to strike girls out. It's awesome when your defense makes the plays behind you. I can't thank my team enough."
Latey is hopeful that Stoddard can lead Bountiful back to the playoffs this season to cap her high school career.
"She's a really good kid, and that's one thing that helped get her a scholarship," Latey said. "I would be surprised if [Snow] didn't use her right away. She has a real good work ethic, and our freshmen already look up to her."
Stoddard and the Braves started the season 5-0, with their top hurler adding four doubles at the plate.