Riley Cox has worked hard to become a better pitcher.
After going a combined 6-11 during her first two seasons on Herriman's softball team, Cox collected 13 wins this season entering the week.
Confidence indeed can make a big difference.
"As a pitcher, it's vital," Mustangs coach Staci Hemingway said. "You touch the ball every play, and it starts out with you. If you're not confident, then your teammates could tell that as well. Riley has grown not only as a player but a person. She's gained a lot of confidence over the last two years."
The junior entered the week 13-5 with seven shutouts and a 3.33 ERA. She had 117 strikeouts over 98 2/3 innings.
Cox, said the difference this season comes from maturity.
"I've gained a lot of speed and mental toughness," said Cox, who turned 17 on Monday. "I don't let things get to me. I let my defense back me up; I'm not going to win it by myself. My team has grown with me, and we've worked together. It's about believing in myself and knowing I can do it."
Cox has shown improvement each year of her prep career. She was just 2-7 in the circle as a freshman but improved to 4-4 her sophomore year. Much of her breakthrough this season is due to the weekly pitching lessons she receives as well as the daily throwing sessions with either her Herriman catcher or her father.
"She works hard on her own to be her best," Hemingway said. "She's realized that she's a leader and can take this team to new places. She's had her ups and downs, but now I don't think the downs affect her at all. She will gladly hand the ball over to Bryce [Taylor] if she is having a bad game."
Behind Cox, the Mustangs captured their first region softball championship in just their third year of existence. Herriman finished 9-1 in region and 17-9 overall during the regular season.
Cox, who competes on the Utah Lady Raptors travel team in the offseason, has approached each game with the same mentality.
"I go into each game thinking they're going to hit," Cox said about her foes. "You can never underestimate an opponent. I want to give my defense something to play. I have lots of movement on my pitches and a lot of speed."
Hemingway, for one, is looking forward to Cox's progress.
"She'll just keep getting even better," Hemingway said. "I can't imagine what another year will bring. She's a really hard worker."
Cox, who would like to pitch close to home in college, envisions a career working in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.