Junior Koi Cook was perfect at the plate and tough on the mound on Saturday, May 4, driving in eight runs and scoring six of his own over two games and earning a pitching victory to keep the Red Devils in the winners bracket of the UHSAA Utah State 2A Championships.
Cook went 3-for-3 with a home run, triple and double, driving in five runs in the Red Devils’ 9-2 victory over Enterprise in the opening-round game and followed it up with a 4-for-4, 3-RBI performance, which included a triple and double, in their 15-10 victory over Parowan. Cook pitched a complete game on the mound in the late game as well. Freshman Dalton McElhaney was the winning pitcher against Enterprise, going the distance and allowing only two hits and striking out seven batters in his playoff debut.
“I didn’t even realize I went 7-for-7 until the end of the second game,” said Cook, who was also walked once and hit by a pitch to reach base on each of his nine plate appearances. “I was just focused on trying to win the game.”
Red Devil assistant coach Ron Dolphin compared Cook’s performance with a famous movie-star tough guy, who is rumored by cartoons to have a third fist coming out of his face, rather than a chin.
“(Cook) was definitely our Chuck Norris on Saturday,” Dolphin said.
The Red Devils had to overcome some early adversity in their second game, which was played immediately after their first, falling behind the Rams 5-1 before waking up again.
“Our energy level was pretty low going into the game,” Cook said. “It took us awhile to get our energy and focus back, but our mindset is to take it one pitch at a time so we never panicked. We knew we could get back into it.”
And get back into it they did, scoring five runs in the bottom of the second inning to claim a 6-5 lead before adding to the lead with six more runs in the third.
“It doesn’t matter if we’re up or down, it’s us against the ball,” Red Devil assistant coach Ron Dolphin said. “We have a one-pitch warrior mentality, which means it doesn’t matter what happened on the last pitch, both offensively and defensively, it only matters what you do on the next pitch.”
Junior Cameron Taylor fueled the Red Devils’ rally against Parowan after not playing against Enterprise, hitting a home run during Grand’s surge to the front. Each of the nine batters in Grand’s lineup got at least one base hit and scored at least one run. Junior Kiel Schraft and sophomore Ronnie Dolphin added doubles. Schraft also hit a double against Enterprise, joining Cook, junior Adam Jenkinson, who hit a triple and sophomore Tanner White, who hit a double, as extra-base hitters for the Red Devils.
The state championships resume Thursday, May 9 at Kearns High School, where the Red Devils are scheduled to play Kanab at 1:30 p.m. Tournament play continues through Saturday, May 11, culminating in the state title game, which is scheduled to take place at 11 a.m. If the team yet to lose going into the game suffers a loss, a winner-take-all final game will take place 15 minutes after the conclusion.
The winner of Grand versus Kanab will take on the winner of the game between Emery and Millard on Friday, May 10 at 4:30 p.m. or a spot in the state title game. The losers will face off at 7 p.m. Friday in the loser’s bracket semifinals.
“We don’t know a lot about Kanab,” Ron Dolphin said. “What we do is they always tend to go deep in the playoffs so we’re not taking them lightly.”
Ron Dolphin said he believes any team still in the tournament is capable of winning the state title.
“It’s really anybody’s championship,” he said. “Everybody’s got a fresh arm on the mound and a good No. 1 pitcher. I think our advantage is that our No. 2,3 and 4 pitchers are better than most.”
Red Devil No. 1 pitcher, senior Preston Walston, was absent from the mound on Saturday as he nursed arm and may or may not play the pitcher position this weekend, Ron Dolphin said.
“His arm’s been hurting him so we thought if we gave him some extra rest it would be to our advantage,” Ron Dolphin said. “We don’t have a plan yet for this weekend. We’ll play it by ear and evaluate throughout the week before we decide what we’re doing Thursday. One good this is that we have a lot of options.”
Cook said the Red Devils are excited about the position they’re in heading into championship weekend.
“We probably have the deepest pitching in 2A right now, I mean we started a freshman in the Enterprise game,” he said. “We have a group of players who can do a lot off different things and just try to put them in the right situations.”