Prep softball coach of the year: Stansbury's Bridget Clinton
They were just one win away from the school's first state title in its short history or just one loss away from second place.
It wasn't going to be easy, but the Stansbury Stallions were used to that.
Bridget Clinton knew her team was talented. She had won it all as a player and once before as a coach. So she knew the first senior class to have spent all four years at the school on the edge of the Great Salt Lake had the talent to do it.
"If they played like they were capable of playing," she said, "we knew we'd win more than we'd lose."
But the Stallions barely had made it past tryouts when senior shortstop Lindsay Guymon and her sister, Alyssa, both were hospitalized after being diagnosed with Type I diabetes. Clinton's son had been diagnosed with the same as a child, and she told her players the moment would be a rallying point, even after the sisters returned to the lineup.
Clinton promised money, donations to juvenile diabetes research, for each double, triple and home run. The Stallions took her up on that, and they were happy to see her pay.
The adversity off the field strengthened the team, Clinton said. So did the adversity on it.
Clinton wanted her Stallions to play against the best. She scheduled Class 5A Riverton and a Copper Hills team that would go on to win this year's state title. She scheduled Bear River, winner of five straight state championships heading into the season.
"It definitely helps, for sure, when you go to the state tournament to have played against tough teams every game," she said.
Stansbury drew Bear River in the semifinals, and Clinton watched proudly as the Stallions stood their ground. And she delighted when Jocelyn Kaufmann, a catcher who had come close but never had lifted a ball over the fence in her life, blasted a grand slam to seal it.
But then in the first game of the championship, the Stallions stumbled in St. George. Spanish Fork beat up on them, 9-3, to force the season's final game.
Seven innings later, Clinton's clothes were soaked with ice water.
She let them dry, smiling on the long drive back to the edge of the Great Salt Lake.
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