OREM — Jerry Beck and Mike Gargano are really nice guys. They’re both upbeat and gregarious, helpful to a fault and love coaching and impacting young baseball players’ lives.
A cynic might add that you know what happens to nice guys.
But never mind that old adage, these two skippers have guided their teams into excellent position in the quest for the 2014 3A State Baseball title. There’s just one problem: Only one of them can help his team walk away with the gold trophy.
Beck, the grizzled veteran who taught and coached at current rival Snow Canyon for 11 years before starting the program at Desert Hills, took his team to the cusp of a championship last year before falling to the Warriors in the “if necessary” game. A heartbreak for sure after beating Snow Canyon three previous times, only to lose to them twice on championship Saturday, the Thunder have preached all season long the desire to make up for the “unfinished business” of last season.
Gargano, the former Dixie State star who played professionally for several years before returning to St. George to coach and teach, has guided his team to an earlier than expected run at the state title. With the heart and bulk of his team being sophomores and juniors (PV has just one senior in the starting lineup), many folks predicted the Panthers would likely be dominant in 2015 and 2016, but not this season. For Pine View, the mantra has been, “Why not now?”
Now, the two coaches and their impressive teams sit just three consecutive wins from that state title.
Oh, and they play each other Thursday morning at 11 a.m.
“We feel like we match up with them pretty well,” Gargano said. “We’re not intimidated. We played them two weeks ago and it was a great series. I think our young guys have matured very quickly, plus the seniors we do have on the roster have shown tremendous leadership.”
Beck agreed, praising Gargano for his efforts with the young Panthers. But at the same time, the Thunder team that won Region 9 and finished two games ahead of the Panthers, has been extremely focused itself.
“We just feel like we left the job undone last year,” Beck said moments after his team had clinched region. “This (region title) is great, but it’s just one of our goals along the way. The big one is still out there.”
Neither coach would go on record as to which of their pitchers would start Thursday’s quarterfinal no=loss bracket game, but it’s pretty obvious, given the importance of staying out of the elimination bracket at this stage of the state tournament, Beck will throw ace Dylan File while Gargano will counter with strikeout artist and super-sophomore Dakota Donovan.
Beck even posted his excitement over the match-up on Facebook, writing, “Two of the best pitchers in the state will be going head to head, should be a good one.”
Donovan was on the mound when Pine View beat D-Hills 6-4 a couple of weeks ago. But Donovan isn’t likely to get that kind of run support Thursday with File throwing against him. The Thunder senior shut the Panthers out that same week in a 5-0 game at Desert Hills.
Two things are very likely in the game. There won’t be many runs scored and there will be a lot of batters muttering to themselves as they stride back to the dugout after striking out.
Whichever team wins will go straight to Friday afternoon’s semifinal game (to face the Grantsville-Juan Diego winner). The loser will have an elimination game Friday morning at 11 a.m. (and another Friday night and another Saturday morning, if they can stay alive).
So whatever happens, like Coach Beck said, “Should be a good one.”
Notes: The Desert Hills-Pine View game can be heard on ESPN SportsRadio 106.1 FM in St. George and online at sportsradio1061.com … Canyon View and Cedar both play Thursday as well. The Redmen battle Richfield at 11 a.m. in Spanish Fork and play again at 4:30 at UVU if they can stay alive. The Falcons play against Stansbury at 1:30 p.m. in Spanish Fork. If they win, they would play another elimination game at 7 p.m. at UVU.
THURSDAY’S BASEBALL (at Utah Valley’s Brent Brown Ballpark)
Desert Hills vs. Pine View, 11 a.m.
Juan Diego vs. Grantsville, 1:30 p.m.
Carbon vs. Uintah, 11 a.m. (Spanish Fork’s Swenson Park)
Cedar vs. Richfield, 11 a.m. (Spanish Fork’s Swenson Park)
Park City vs. Juab, 1:30 p.m. (Spanish Fork’s Swenson Park)
Canyon View vs Stansbury, 1:30 p.m. (Spanish Fork’s Swenson Park)
Elimination games at 4:30 p.m. and at 7 p.m. at UVU
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