The Grand County High School baseball team advanced to third round of the UHSAA Utah State 2A Baseball Championships with a 6-5 victory over the Diamond Ranch Academy Diamondbacks and an 11-1 victory over the Parowan Rams on Saturday, May 3 in Moab.
The Red Devils entered the playoffs as the Region 15 No. 1 seed after winning a coin toss with co-region champion and reigning state champion Emery. The Diamondbacks entered as the No. 6 seed from region 13, but gave the Grand faithful all it could handle.
After defeating American Leadership Academy 12-9 in a play-in game on Thursday, May 1 to earn the final spot in the playoffs, the Diamondbacks scored first against the Red Devils, taking a 1-0 lead in the top of the second inning.
Grand jumped ahead with two runs in the third inning before the D’Backs reclaimed a 4-2 lead with three runs in the fourth inning. The D’Backs extended their advantage to 5-2 in the fifth inning before Grand scored in the bottom half to cut the gap to 5-3.
In the bottom of the sixth inning, senior leadoff hitter Adam Jenkinson started the inning with a single, followed by a bunt single by senior Kiel Schraft. Senior Koi Cook later drew a walk to load the bases before Jenkinson scored on a passed ball. Junior Kyler Nelson pushed Schraft and Cook home on a 2-RBI single to give Grand a 6-5 lead. The Red Devils were able to hold off the D’Backs’ last-gasp rally in the top of the seventh for the win.
“Diamond Ranch is a good baseball team – probably much better than a six-seed, which they were,” Red Devil assistant baseball coach Ron Dolphin said.”
Cook pitched the entire game for the Red Devils. Dolphin said that Cook told him it was the hardest game he ever pitched.
“Koi had a hard time with his off-speed pitches and really only had his fastball working early on, which Diamond Ranch was putting good swings on,” Dolphin said. “He settled down in about the fifth inning. He’s a real competitor – he struggled, but he found a way.”
The Red Devils only collected eight hits, one fewer than the D’Backs. Cook and junior Tanner White each hit doubles for Grand.
“We were a little tentative to start,” Dolphin said. “We didn’t know what we were up against.”
The Red Devils rekindled the fire in their second-round game against Parowan, scoring eight runs in the second inning and coasting to an 11-1 five-inning mercy-rule victory. Per the mercy rule, if a team is leading by 10 runs after five innings, the game is over.
“We were just clicking against Parowan,” Dolphin said. “They’re a much better team than they showed on Saturday. They just didn’t play up to their full potential.”
Nelson earned the pitching victory as the Red Devils allowed only three hits to the Rams. Jenkinson hit a triple for the Red Devils, while senior Cameron Taylor and juniors White and Ronnie Dolphin each hit doubles.
The 2014 playoffs are proceeding in much the same way for the Red Devils to this point as the 2013 playoffs did. The Red Devils won home games in the first and second rounds last year before losing to Kanab in the third round and being ousted by Beaver in the double-elimination tournament. Parowan, who they beat in the second round in 2013 as well, advanced to the state title game versus Emery before losing a second time.
This year, the Red Devils’ third-round game is at Kearns High School on Thursday, May 8 at 11 a.m., against the Manti Templars, who defeated the Red Devils 1-0 in an early-season matchup on March 6. Ron Dolphin said he expects a tough game against the Templars because of each team’s familiarity with the other. He said their matchup earlier in the season is not indicative of how this game will be.
“The games early in the season aren’t really a good gauge of how your team is going to be,” he said. “Even when we started 0-3, we never panicked because we knew what kind of baseball team we had and we knew we would be in the hunt come this point of the season.”
Ron Dolphin said the Red Devils should benefit this season from facing the same situation last season, but also said “baseball is a funny sport and anything can happen.”
Grand and Manti make up one winner’s bracket semifinal and Beaver and North Sevier make up the other. The Beavers beat Emery 4-3 in the second-round, dropping the defending state champs into the one-loss bracket. Winners of the two top-bracket semifinals will play each other on Friday, May 9 at 4:30 p.m., for a spot in the state title game, which takes place Saturday, May 10 at 11 a.m. The loser between Grand and Manti will play in the one-loss bracket on Friday, May 9 at 11 a.m., and would have to win three elimination games to reach the state title game. The complete bracket is available on the UHSAA website at www.uhsaa.org/baseball/2013-14/2A.pdf.
“I think 2A is fairly wide open,” Ron Dolphin said. “I believe the correct four teams are in the semis, but any one of the 12 teams stilly playing has a legitimate chance to win the title.”
Red Devils squeak past D’Backs, find rhythm against Rams
“I think 2A is fairly wide open. I believe the correct four teams are in the semis, but any one of the 12 teams stilly playing has a legitimate chance to win the title.”