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South Jordan Journal

With this state title, Bingham softball coach Mikki Jackson again proved she is a master motivator

Aug 11, 2023 10:28AM ● By Brian Shaw

Bingham head softball coach Mikki Jackson has been part of eight state championships at the school. (Photo by Pat McDonald)

Bingham head softball coach Mikki Jackson has been there and done plenty of that. 

Jackson herself is no spring chicken when it comes to coaching; she's been at Bingham since 1991—the first year the Miners won a state championship in softball.  

But what makes Jackson so special through her eight state championships at Bingham might go beyond the stats. 

In the third inning of a scoreless game 1 at the 6A state championship, things got heated between rivals Bingham and Herriman. 

At the plate to start the top of the third, Shelbee Jones looked to smash her 13th home run but was thrown a fastball inside by Weber State-bound Herriman ace Tiaira Smith. 

It forced a slow roller to shortstop, but the throw to first base hit Herriman’s first baseman in the face. Jones continued to second but was thrown out as she slid hard. Jones was reprimanded by Jackson in the dugout for what could have been called an excessive play. 

Jackson herself wasn’t done coaching up her kids; she then gathered her entire Miners team and staff together and demanded they show class and respect at all times. 

It's that trait of a champion that weaves its way through Jackson’s great Bingham softball teams and draws admirers near and far. 

Eric Jones, Bingham football coach, is only entering his second year at the school, but even he was happy to pause and reflect to City Journals on how special a coach and person Jackson is. 

“It was inspiring to watch Mikki and her team continually improve and find their identity,” Jones said. “They were and are a young team that found a way to gel and get hot at tournament time.” 

In honor of some of Utah’s great women who have shaped their communities on and off the field, here are some highlights from the eight state titles Jackson has won as Bingham coach, starting with the latest one. 

Third Time’s The Charm [2023] 

The Miners were swept in the state championship game two years ago by next-door neighbor Riverton. Then lost both region games to the mighty Silverwolves last year and this year, stretching their winless streak against the purple and silver to eight games.  

That Bingham was able to snap that streak and not only defeat Riverton 7-2 in the 6A state tournament—but also beat the Silverwolves a second time in the double-elimination semifinals by taking their neighbors to the brink and then watch freshman Brenna Cowley slap home two runs with a single, was poetic justice for a team whose motto this year was to “keep the ego subservient.” 

That was an old adage that Jackson picked up from Bingham head baseball coach Joey Sato. Jackson, a science teacher at Bingham, has long been friends with Sato, himself a history teacher who not only has coached and taught at the school—he played there from 1974 to 1977 before becoming the head coach back in 1978. 

Bingham needed all the help it could get at the state championship game. The Miners were pitted against another rival in Herriman, who was also playing for something bigger than themselves: their sophomore teammate Kiki Feliciano, who was battling lung cancer for a second time. 

But on this particular day in a picturesque setting, it was Bingham’s day to lift the state championship trophy. 

“It just feels so awesome,” Jackson said after the Miners’ state championship-clinching Game 2 win. “We’ve been in that championship game several times since winning that last one. And to finally pull it off in dominating fashion is great.”

To get there, though, Jackson who was herself a graduate of BYU, used a visual aid to show her players how they could visualize their goals.  

The coach, who won her eighth state title in 32 years as a coach in some capacity, got the Miners to believe enough that they were able to "Take A Hike To The Y," a pastime that many BYU students enjoy. 

The coach and three of her state championship winning Bingham players displayed a poster board on KUTV’s Talkin Sports, providing an intimate look at how the Miners reached these incremental goals to make it to “The Y” and hand Jackson her eighth state title in 32 years. 

As it turns out, however, this state title wasn’t all that different from the previous seven in that Jackson got her Miners to buy into, and achieve, a mission that the coach herself created. 

Talk It Out [2008] 

The Valley Regional Complex in Taylorsville set the stage for a three-peat as Bingham’s 2000s Golden Age showed. The Miners, however, didn’t get off to the most stellar of beginnings at this 5A state tournament in 2008. 

In fact, Jackson — who had only returned to Bingham’s program in 2007 — told her team that they needed to engage in a two hours-long discussion with each other to help them get over the hump after they were one loss away from being eliminated from the 2008 tournament. 

The rest, of course, was history as Bingham’s University of Utah-bound senior Chalese Fankhauser would wallop a solo shot over the wall to win Game 1 of the state championship series versus Taylorsville, 3-2. 

The Miners would then capture their first state title in 12 years in a 10-1 win over T-ville, leading off a run of three straight state crowns in the process. 

Smooth As An Almond [2009] 

Now a junior, Tori Almond needed a lot of help to hand Bingham its first state title in 12 years in 2008. 

But in 2009, the Miners were so dominant and so smooth that few stood in their way. Case in point: the Miners had only lost twice all season going into the 5A state tournament at Valley Regional Complex. 

But both of those losses came via very unique circumstances: [Hunter’s pitcher threw 13 strikeouts] in one loss and the other came against the Miners’ next door neighbor, Riverton [Bingham committed nine errors]. 

Over the following week, however [May 14-21, 2009], Bingham scored 46 runs and allowed one. 

Over the month leading up to the 5A state tournament, the Miners won 12 games in a row, avenging both early-season losses in region play to Hunter and Riverton. 

That streak would continue through the state tourney, as Almond scattered six hits across seven innings and the Miners won their 5A semifinal game despite committing four errors and only getting two hits on two Bingham home runs, May 19, 2009. 

In Game 1 of the 5A state championship game, details were again the devil—but not for Bingham, who scored the game-clinching run after Viewmont’s catcher narrowly missed tagging Meghan Herrick after Herrick took a big lead off of third base. 

Herrick sprinted past the tag and touched home plate first, giving the Miners a 2-0 lead—one it would hang onto for a 2-1 win over Viewpoint. 

In Game 2, Almond would again need some help—but the junior got it thanks to a six-run fifth inning in an 8-2 win over Viewmont for Bingham’s second straight state championship. 

For her efforts, Almond — who got help from senior Cienna Smith throughout the state tourney — was named tournament MVP. For the game, Almond struck out seven Viewmont batters and Bingham had 13 hits—committing just one error. 

A Royal Reminder [2010]  

After the Miners, led by senior Tori Almond, pitched a one-hitter, at the 5A state semifinals against Roy it was Jackson’s crew who slipped up against the top-ranked Royals, losing 4-2. 

The Miners committed a whopping five errors in the game, and it dropped Bingham into a do-or-die showdown with Fremont. 

Bingham won that decisive game 2-0, launching the Miners into a 5A state championship game showdown with that very same Roy team that upended them a day earlier. 

Almond, however, was on her A-game, pitching a shutout in a 6-0 win in which the senior scattered just four hits over seven innings of work—forcing one more game for all the marbles and a shot at Bingham’s third straight state championship trophy. 

For the BYU-bound Almond, this was the big one; in what would be the third game played on the same May 20 day at Valley Regional Complex she two-hit Roy and had now thrown an unheard-of 20 innings of scoreless ball in a 2-1 championship-clinching win. 

What was just as impressive as the 20 scoreless innings, however, was that in that 2010 year Almond had a 19-3 win-loss record as Bingham’s ace and that to this day, Almond holds state records for the second most strikeouts and sixth lowest ERA ever [0.30]. 

The First Mikki Jackson Era [1991-93, 1996] 

Picture Perfect [1993] 

Like all of Jackson’s state champions, with the exception of the 1996 team, each of her teams built one unto the other and became more than the sum of its parts. 

One could argue that in the history of softball in the state of Utah, however, few teams have been as good as the 1993 Bingham Miners were. Jackson’s 1991 team seemed to build into this mythical creature that was the 1992 team, and so that built into this once-in-a-lifetime ’93 team. 

Some would argue that this ’93 Miners team came together as a result of a perfect storm; people close to the program told City Journals that it had more to do with a team that lost several players to graduation—but one said it was deeper than that, more personal. 

In an era when certain schools were beginning to lure players away, the disrespect might have been real. That’s for others to discuss. 

What is not up for debate, however, is the manner in which the Miners dispatched Weber in just five innings of play—a thorough 10-0 win to capture their third straight state title. 

It capped a 25-0 season in which several underclassmen featured, serving prominent roles in the most unlikely ways: as a cleanup hitter, a shortstop with an inferiority complex and so forth. 

Bingham’s state title run would continue in 1994—but not with Jackson at the helm. 

Back On Top [1996] 

Having watched Alta snap Bingham’s four-peat of state titles in 1995, the Miners ushered in the second Mikki Jackson Era at Bingham resolute to return to the top of the food chain. 

To that end, the Miners already reclaimed the top seed going into the 1996 5A state tournament by knocking off Alta and Miller Toyota semipro softball legend/head coach Vaughn Alvey, 1-0. 

Even Alta tabbed Hillcrest as the state tournament favorite, though. The Huskies had six starters coming back—four were All-State selections the previous year. But it was Candee Bowden, a Bingham sophomore, who was named the 5A state tournament MVP. 

As a pitcher, Bowden had a 15-1 record and a 0.58 ERA. To get there, however, the Miners had to take the more scenic route. 

Bowden and Bingham fell to Alta in the semifinals and had to slug it out again with the Hawks in a do-or-die elimination game—which the Miners won, 1-0. 

That set the table for a state championship game against Taylorsville two hours later. Bowden and the Miners were just enough in a 5-4 win to give Jackson her fourth state title, her first since 1993. 

As it stands, Jackson is second all-time in total state championships [only Bear River’s Calvin Bingham has more, with 11]. 

With such a young Bingham team in 2024, you’d have to think that the Miners might find their way back up the mountain that Jackson has expertly built for teams she deems worthy of such a climb. λ