The Grand County High School baseball team begins its season Thursday and Friday, March 5 and 6 with the Moab Invitational. This year’s team is younger and less experienced than the team that placed second in the 2014 UHSAA Utah State 2A Championships, but coaches still see a lot of potential for a strong season.
The 2015 Red Devils will be led by a trio of seniors who were each instrumental in Grand’s run to the 2014 runner-up trophy. Kyler Nelson will be the ace of the pitching staff after posting a strong junior season in which he garnered second-team all-state accolades and earned two playoff victories. Tanner White also earned second-team all-state honors at first base, leading all of 2A with 15 doubles. Ronnie Dolphin earned honorable mention for his play splitting time between catching and playing in the outfield.
“We’ve got a nice mix of players this season,” Grand assistant coach Ron Dolphin said. “We’ve got three seniors leading the way and we’ve got a lot of youth on the team that we expect big things from. They don’t have experience at the high school level, but they understand the game of baseball.”
The Red Devils will have to lean even more heavily on the team’s younger players as juniors Brayden Ward and Dalton McElhaney nurse injuries.
“It’s nice to have options,” Ron Dolphin said. “We’re not hurting like we would have been a couple years ago if we lost players to injuries.”
Ron Dolphin said the Red Devils aren’t worried too much about their playoff aspirations at this point in the season.
“I don’t think we have what (head coach Jared Meador) and I call ‘destination disease,’” he said. “(Going deep into the playoffs) is a long-term goal, but right now, we’re just concerned about getting the kids in the right spots and getting them experience. The older guys have been great in getting them ready. They know that they’re depending on the younger guys for a strong season.”
The Red Devils are excited to begin the season with their traditional Moab Invitational, before returning to the Bloomfield Invitational in Bloomfield, New Mexico, after a several-year hiatus. Ron Dolphin said the Red Devils had been scheduling home tournaments in each of the first two weekends of the season the past few years, but it’s become increasingly difficult to get teams to come to Moab on the second weekend, prompting Grand’s return to the Bloomfield tournament.
“It will be nice to play some teams that we don’t normally see,” Ron Dolphin said. “The kids will also benefit from not having the pressure of playing against other 2A teams from Utah.”
After the Bloomfield Invitational, the Red Devils will play defending-state champion Emery twice in the same week, traveling to Castle Dale on March 17 and hosting the Spartans in Moab on March 20. The Spartans are the favorite to repeat as champion as they return most of their roster from the 2014 championship team.
“Because of ACT testing, spring break and other factors, we decided to schedule Emery twice in the same week,” Ron Dolphin said.
Grand to field young team, still expects to be strong
“We’ve got a nice mix of players this season. We’ve got three seniors leading the way and we’ve got a lot of youth on the team that we expect big things from. They don’t have experience at the high school level, but they understand the game of baseball.”
What: Red Devil baseball at the Moab Invitational
When: Grand versus Summit Academy, Thursday, March 5, 10 a.m.
Grand versus Manti, Thursday, March 5, 12:30 p.m.
Grand versus Millard, Friday, March 6, 3 p.m.
Where: Grand County High School, 608 S. 400 East
The Red Devils begin their 2015 campaign versus Summit Academy on Thursday, March 5 at 10 a.m., followed immediately by a match-up versus Manti. They conclude the season-opening Moab Invitational with a game versus Millard on Friday, March 6 at 3 p.m.