Melonie Dolphin, left, Ronnie Dolphin, Ronald Dolphin, Shontee Pierce, Kyler Nelson, Josh Pierce, Tanner White and Michelle White gather ahead of a Red Devils baseball game on Friday, April 24 to honor the three Grand County High School seniors who are pictured here. Head Coach Jared Meador is pictured in the background. [Photo courtesy of Laci Leavitt]

The Red Devil baseball team finished the regular season on a winning note, defeating Monticello 17-1 on Tuesday, April 21, and defeating San Juan 4-2 on Friday, April 24 to finish with a 14-7 overall record, including a third-place 8-4 mark in Region 15 play. The Red Devils will travel to Region 13 champion Delta for the first two rounds of the state tournament on Saturday, May 2.

Against the Buckaroos in Monticello, Grand exploded for 11 runs in the sixth inning after scoring five runs in the second inning and a run in the third inning, totalling 17 runs on only 12 hits. Senior Tanner White belted his third home run of the season, while freshman Josh Jones hit a triple, junior Brayden Ward had a pair of doubles, and freshmen Brayden Schultz and Bruin Meador each had a double. Jones was the winning pitcher, improving his season mark to 5-3.

Against San Juan, the Red Devils scored four runs on five hits, jumping out to a 4-0 lead before the Broncos were able to push across two runs in the fifth inning. Senior Kyler Nelson pitched the entire game to improve his record to 8-3. He also hit a double for Grand’s only extra-base hit of the afternoon.

In the Red Devils’ first-round game of the double-elimination state tournament, which is scheduled for 9:30 a.m., they will play either Summit Academy or South Summit. As of Monday, April 27, the two teams were tied for third in the Region 16 standings, and each had one more game to play. The Red Devils defeated Summit Academy 9-7 at the season opening Moab Invitational on March 5.

Grand assistant coach Ron Dolphin said each team plays a vastly different style. He said Summit Academy is a team “full of baseball players who aren’t very athletic,” while South Summit is “full of athletes, who aren’t really baseball players.”

The winner of the first-round game will play either Delta or American Leadership Academy at 4:15 p.m., while the losers of the two games will play each other at 2 p.m., a format Dolphin said he doesn’t agree with.

“All four (first-round sites) have the winners’ game as the last game of the day,” he said. “I’d rather have the winners play first” to have a guaranteed finished game with no threat of being called early because of darkness.

Dolphin stressed the importance of Grand getting through the first weekend of the tournament undefeated.

“We should beat either team in the first round, but it won’t be a walk-through,” he said. “We’ve learned the last four years that it’s so important to go into the second weekend of the tournament undefeated. You’re going to be in a tough spot if you have one loss.”

Dolphin said the Red Devils are a young and resilient team that has earned valuable experience overcoming different challenges throughout the season.

“These kids have been in every kind of game,” Dolphin said. “They’ve been losing and come from behind to get the win; they’ve had slim leads that they’ve been able to hold onto for wins. They’ve had big leads and had a team rally before hanging on for the win. Just last week we were beating San Juan 10-0 and had them come all the way back to send the game into extra innings before we won 12-11.”

Dolphin said he believes this year’s tournament is anyone’s to win, adding he doesn’t think two-time defending champion Emery is quite as good of a team as it has been the past two seasons, despite its 16-4 season mark as of Monday, April 27, including an 11-0 Region 15 mark.

“It all comes down to who plays better better baseball, not necessarily who is the better baseball team,” he said. “I really think it’s wide open. We’re peaking at the right time; we had a great practice (on Monday). The kids are ready to make a deep playoff run.”

Dolphin said there is a level of expectation and a level of confidence with the Red Devils because of their run of success in recent years.

“Our kids have learned over the year that we don’t just show up to play baseball, we want to be competitive and play better baseball than the other team,” he said.

Should the Red Devils earn at least one victory in Delta, they’ll advance to the second weekend of the tournament, which begins on Thursday, May 7, and concludes with the championship game on Saturday, May 9. The entire weekend’s games will be played at Utah Valley University.

Red Devils head to Delta this weekend for state tournament’s first two rounds

“We should beat either team in the first round, but it won’t be a walk-through. We’ve learned the last four years that it’s so important to go into the second weekend of the tournament undefeated. You’re going to be in a tough spot if you have one loss.”