The Grand County High School baseball team begins play Thursday, March 10, at a tournament in Bloomfield, New Mexico, looking to maintain or build upon their success from recent years, consistently going deep into the 2A playoffs.
Last year, the Red Devils went 16-9, including a 2-2 mark in the playoffs as they were ousted by Emery for the second consecutive year. In 2014, the Red Devils and Spartans competed for the state championship versus one another, with the Spartans winning back-to-back games versus the Red Devils in the finals to claim the title.
To begin this season, the Spartans are ranked No. 5 and the Red Devils are unranked in the Deseret News preseason rankings. The Red Devils lost three all-staters to graduation, but GCHS Athletic Director Ron Dolphin said Grand still has the tools to go deep into the playoffs once more.
“You never know what the season is going to hold, but these guys have every bit of a chance to go as far as we’ve gone in past years,” he said.
Seniors Dalton McElhaney and Brayden Ward will anchor this year’s team, Dolphin said, with contributions from a talented group of young players, including 10-11 freshmen who he said have been playing baseball since they could walk.
“We are deeper than we’ve ever been,” McElhaney said. “We have backups that would be just as good as the starters. We have a solid lineup 1-9, with no holes to fill.”
Dolphin said the Red Devils have talent, noting the team is young and not battle-tested so they’ll have “lots of opportunity for growth.”
McElhaney said the Red Devils are a resilient bunch that will not throw in the towel no matter the score.
“We are positive and close-knit,” he said. “(We work) hard every day and (take) pride in our work. Our excitement level is over the top.”
The Red Devils begin region play at home versus Emery on Tuesday, March 15, at 3:30 p.m. Thanks to a division realignment, the Red Devils will have Manti and Gunnison Valley as region foes, losing the twice-yearly showdowns with South Sevier and Wasatch Academy. Dolphin said that because of the realignment and Grand being the northernmost of the southern schools in Region 15, the Red Devils have no doubleheaders this season, instead playing home-and-home series versus each region foe, often playing the same opponent at home and on the road within a week. In fact, the Spartans are the only region foe Grand doesn’t play twice in a seven-day span. The Red Devils and Spartans play each other for a second time in Grand’s regular season finale on April 29.
Dolphin said the Red Devils should be indifferent about the non-traditional schedule.
“It can be a good thing because if you have a bad game, you’ve got two or three days to regroup and practice getting it right, rather than going back out in 20 minutes,” he said. “But on the other side, if you have a good game, you don’t want to wait three days to play again.”
Dolphin said there is a degree of parity among the 2A schools, especially in Region 15.
“There’s not one team that stands out above all others, but there are a lot of good teams out there,” he said. “It depends on which team peaks at the right time. As far as we’re concerned, it doesn’t matter so much where we are now, it matters how the team grows and matures through the season.”
McElhaney said his goal as a team leader is to set an example and exude confidence. As a team, the Red Devils’ No. 1 goal is effort.
“Of course we want to win games, but the way that will happen is by focusing and putting our nose to the grindstone every day this season,” he said. “We also want to have fun, but that is a given in our baseball program.”
Before beginning region play versus the Spartans, the Red Devils play at the Bloomfield Invitational in Bloomfield. Their first game is scheduled for 9 a.m. on Thursday, March 10. They also play Friday, March 11. The tournament concludes Saturday, March 12, with the championship game at 3 p.m., and consolation games preceding it at 9 a.m., and 1 p.m.
Young Grand squad has tools to stay in top tier of 2A baseball
“We are positive and close-netted. (We work) hard every day and (take) pride in our work. Our excitement level is over the top.”
“There’s not one team that stands out above all others, but there are a lot of good teams out there. It depends on which team peaks at the right time. As far as we’re concerned, it doesn’t matter so much where we are now, it matters how the team grows and matures through the season.”
When: Tuesday, March 15, 3:30 p.m.
Where: Grand County High School baseball field, 608 S. 400 East