The Grand County Red Devils and Gunnison Valley Bulldogs maintained their collision course they’ve had throughout the season, both navigating all the way to the state championship game on Saturday, May 13, where the Bulldogs topped the Red Devils 9-4.
Gunnison employed the strategy of putting its best arm forward early in the weekend to ensure it made it to the title game, where it would take its chances with less-heralded pitchers. Grand, on the other hand, used its best pitchers sparingly early on so they would be available on Saturday. In Saturday’s title game, Grand ace Josh Jones faced Gunnison sophomore Parx Bartholemew. On paper, it would appear Grand had a distinct advantage and a prime opportunity to force a second state title game for all the marbles, but Bartholemew stifled Grand’s offense and Jones and the Grand defense had a tough time keeping the Bulldogs off the scoreboard.
Both teams scored a pair of runs early on to go into the third inning tied at 1-1 when Gunnison scored 3 runs to pull ahead 4-1. The Bulldogs broke the game open with five more runs in the fourth inning. At 9-1, Grand was able to score a pair of runs in the fifth inning, thanks to two bases-loaded walks by Bartholemew, to pull to 9-3. Grand threatened again in the sixth inning, and loaded the bases in the seventh inning, getting one more run across for a final of 9-4. Bartholemew struck out eight Red Devils and only allowed Grand five hits before giving way to Gage Mogle for the final four outs.
Gunnison also handed the Red Devils their first loss of the tournament on Friday, May 12, beating them 7-5 as Utah Valley University-bound ace Drew Hill pitched 6-plus innings, handing the ball to Mogle in the seventh inning with a 7-3 lead and two runners on base. Grand got both runners home and threatened more runs, but ran out of outs, losing 7-5. Grand faced Kanab on Saturday morning, May 13, for the right to be the one-loss team in the state championship, defeating the Cowboys for the second time in the tournament 9-5.
Against the Cowboys, Grand had 14 hits and committed no defensive errors. Bruin Meador went 3-4 with a double and a triple, finishing just a home run shy of the cycle. Brayden Schultz was the winning pitcher in the contest, allowing Jones to be available for the championship game.
The Red Devils also beat the Cowboys 6-2 on Thursday, May 11, a game in which Schultz hit a pair of home runs to net three runs batted in. Grand scored four runs in the first inning and two more in the sixth inning. Jones started the game and pitched two innings, before Masen Ward took over and threw 55 pitches.
The Red Devils finished the season with a 21-5 record overall, including a 1-3 mark against the champion Bulldogs. Grand graduates a handful of seniors, including starters Christian Wilson, Caden Noyes and Tobin Wainer.
Red Devils fall to Gunnison Valley, 9-4, in title game