Thunder move into championship game as offense stays red hot

Desert Hills vs. Juan Diego, Baseball, St. George, Utah, May 18, 2018, | Photo by Robert Hoppie, ASPpix.com, St. George News

ST. GEORGE – After scoring 27 runs in two elimination victories Thursday, the big question on Desert Hills fans minds was: “Can we keep up this pace?”

The Thunder answered with a resounding yes by blasting Juan Diego 14-4 Friday in an elimination game at the 4A state tournament at Bruce Hurst Field. The win moves Desert Hills into the state championship game at 11 a.m. Saturday at Hurst Field. The Thunder need to beat Dixie twice to earn the 2018 state championship.

Wednesday night in the state quarterfinals, Juan Diego had defeated Desert Hills 5-1. It was a game DH coach Chris Allred called “lackluster,” while Thunder players referred to as “flat” or as “laying an egg.” That loss was purged from the D-Hills collective mind on Friday night.

The Thunder scored early and often, giving pitcher Lance Kinross plenty of run support.

Desert Hills’ Jaxton Reber (22), Desert Hills vs. Juan Diego, Baseball, St. George, Utah, May 18, 2018, | Photo by Robert Hoppie, ASPpix.com, St. George News

Desert Hills struck for three runs in the first inning off of a hit by Trey Allred and a couple of Juan Diego errors. The Soaring Eagle nearly matched in the top of the second as Morgan Anderson doubled a run home and then scored himself on a DH error to make it 3-2.

It was 4-3 heading into the bottom of the fourth when Brigham Gardner led off with a solo homer to left-center. Later in the inning, D-Hills got consecutive sacrifice fly balls by Bo Barben and Trey Allred to make it 7-3.

Dawson Stiefel singled in a run for the Soaring Eagle to cut it to 7-4 in the top of the fourth. But Kinross shut JD down the rest of the game.

Meanwhile, a Jayden Peterson liner upped the lead to 8-4 in the bottom of the fifth. After a pitching change by Juan Diego, the Thunder offense kept ahold of the momentum.

Desert Hills’ Brigham Gardner (6) launches a solo home run, Desert Hills vs. Juan Diego, Baseball, St. George, Utah, May 18, 2018, | Photo by Robert Hoppie, ASPpix.com, St. George News

Allred and Thorpe had back-to-back RBI singles and Sam Rhoton’s base hit with one out pushed the game to the edge of the mercy rule at 13-4. Gardner stepped back in and watched Rhoton steal second and then third to put the mercy-rule run just 90 feet away. Gardner then chipped a 2-2 pitch high into shallow right field. The pop fly was probably deep enough to score Rhoton anyway, but the ball landed untouched between outfielders and Rhoton was able to jog home with the game-ending run.

Desert Hills, which got three hits from Trey Allred in the win, is now 13-3 since a pair of 5-0 losses to Dixie back in late March. In those 16 games, DH has averaged 9.1 runs per game. The Thunder had 13 hits in Friday’s win.

Juan Diego, which came into Friday unbeaten in the state tourney and with high hopes of playing for the 4A state title, ends the day on the wrong side of two mercy-rule losses. The Soaring Eagle, which lost the two games by a combined score of 24-4, ends the season with a 22-7 record.

Wednesday’s results
Dixie 4, Pine View 3
Lehi 4, Orem 3 (F/9) (Orem eliminated)
Spanish Fork 11, Sky View 0 (Sky View eliminated)
Juan Diego 5, Desert Hills 1
Salem Hills 6, Bear River 3 (Bear River eliminated)
Snow Canyon 6, Park City 2 (Park City eliminated)
Spanish Fork 10, Lehi 7 (Lehi eliminated)
Snow Canyon 3, Salem Hills 1 (Salem Hills eliminated)

Thursday’s results
Desert Hills 9, Spanish Fork 8 (Spanish Fork eliminated)
Snow Canyon 7, Pine View 5 (Pine View eliminated)
Desert Hills 18, Snow Canyon 2 (Snow Canyon eliminated)

Friday’s results
4A semifinal – Dixie 10, Juan Diego 0
Desert Hills 14, Juan Diego 4 (Juan Diego eliminated)

Saturday’s schedule of games
11 a.m. – 4A championship, Dixie (26-3) vs. Desert Hills (21-7) at Hurst Field
1 p.m. – 4A championship 2 (if necessary game) at Hurst Field

UHSAA 4A bracket

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Twitter: @oldschoolag

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