Sunday , April 15, 2018 - 5:15 AM
Bountiful softball player Dashani Purcell (left) hits a grand slam during the Braves' 7-3 win over Roy on Wednesday, April 11, 2018.
ROY — Tuesday was already going to be an emotional day for Bountiful High softball sophomore Dashani Purcell.
When the ball went over the fence, the tears went over her eyelids.
It’s been more than three years since Purcell’s cousin, Adelaide ‘Addy’ Clinger, was killed in an accidental shooting in Kaysville.
Purcell thinks about her cousin all the time. Everything she does is for her. That Tuesday, April 10, would’ve been Clinger’s 16th birthday.
It was the same day Bountiful played Copper Hills, so the day before that game, Purcell went to her teammates with a request.
She asked if they would all write “11.23.14” — the day Clinger died — on the inside of their arms as a tribute to her memory.
Indeed, when Bountiful lined up to play the Grizzlies in West Jordan, every Braves player had “11.23.14” written in black marker on one of their arms.
“I thought it would be nice to support her in that way, and it just meant a lot to me that they all did it,” Purcell said. “It goes along with how our team is. We support each other.”
Her teammates were more than willing to support her, which says something about how close the Braves are as a team.
Purcell went 2 for 5 with five RBIs and a home run as Bountiful beat Copper Hills 19-6. It was another good game in a season that’s been full of them so far, but this one was a little different.
“I was very emotional, but I did pretty good. I did hit a home run and then cry after that,” Purcell said.
The next day when Bountiful played at Roy, those numbers were still visible on a lot of the players’ arms.
Purcell, batting .467 with team-highs in RBIs (18) and home runs (6) through 10 games, hit a grand slam in the second inning and a solo home run in the fifth that propelled the Braves to a 7-3 win over the Royals.
Purcell is one of a group of players leading a youth movement for Bountiful, a team with seven sophomores, seven freshmen and just two seniors.
Their leadoff hitter is sophomore Libbie Hawker, who’s batting .484 with a .579 on-base percentage. Bountiful’s leading hitter by average is freshman Livi Arona, batting .529 with eight RBIs.
The starting catcher is sophomore Sophia Stoddard, batting .500 with 14 RBIs. There’s another sophomore, Abby Steed, starting at first base.
“When we play, I think we like to have a lot of fun and talk and dance a lot,” Hawker said.
Practices are a lot of fun, Hawker says, and that’s where the team’s apparent goofiness also shows its colors.
But they never get too far off track, in large part thanks to the two seniors — pitcher McHailee Danner and second baseman Katie Tanner — who provide leadership and direction.
It isn’t a situation where the freshmen and sophomores are rambunctious and the coaches and seniors are trying to herd cats, which Danner appreciates.
“Everyone here’s mature and they all have lots of skill and they know what they’re doing,” Danner said. “It makes me so happy, I just love how we have all this different diversity in skill set, if any one of us during varsity got hurt, I would not be worried about any one of them coming in.”
After Wednesday’s win over Roy, the Braves are 8-2 overall, 4-1 in Region 5 and right in the thick of things for the region crown with the Royals and Box Elder.
It’s apparent just watching the Braves that they get along well. The “11.23.14” gesture is another indicator that Bountiful is a tight-knit group.
Head coach Butch Latey is in his 14th season at the helm. He’s seen what happens when good teams don’t get along.
When he was asked if this year’s team was the best in terms of team chemistry, his answer was resounding.
“Oh yeah, they really like each other,” he said.
That’s the overwhelming sentiment among the players, too.
So there’s some symbolism, then, when Purcell trots around the bases after hitting (another) home run.
The entire team has already sprinted to home plate. They’re jumping, clapping and hollering, waiting eagerly to embrace Purcell and celebrate.