COMMENTARY — Anyone who’s been involved with the myriad baseball and softball tournaments in southern Utah the past couple of weeks should be wiping their brows and letting out a big sigh — whew, they’re over.
Virtually every regulation size baseball and softball field in town was on full-tilt, around the clock, infield-raking alert over the past little while as schools from around the state came to enjoy our beautiful weather and play in tournaments hosted by Region 9 schools and Dixie State. A huge “Thank You” goes out to the hundreds of volunteers and assistants that made all the tourneys possible.
Having covered a lot of the games around town, I admit I was pretty tired when it all wrapped up. But was I sick of baseball? Heck no!
That’s because region starts this week — today, in fact — and now the games really mean something.
Region 9 baseball kicks off tonight with Pine View at Snow Canyon, Dixie at Hurricane and Canyon View at Cedar. A quick refresher of what happened last year: Desert Hills, led by ace pitchers Dylan File and Baden Powell, won the region title (9-3 record) and made it all the way to the “if necessary” game in the state championship. Unfortunately, the Thunder lost a close 8-7 game to the state champs, Grantsville. Cedar, behind ace Kayden Lunt, was second in region at 8-4. Pine View and Canyon View tied for third and Snow Canyon, Dixie and Hurricane missed the playoffs.
But File, Powell and Lunt are all gone and there could be a change of fortunes this year. The Thunder will be good once again and Cedar has Brecken Lewis back. But what about the rest of the region?
The Panthers have been tabbed by Salt Lake media to win the region. Pine View has two stud pitchers in Dakota Donovan and Harrison Goebel. But the Panthers bullpen has yet to prove itself and PV committed 12 errors in a pair of non-league losses last weekend. The Panthers went 3-5 in the preseason and will have a real test out of the gates in region with a two-game set against Snow Canyon (Tuesday at SC, Wednesday at PV, both at 7 p.m.).
Speaking of the Warriors, they went a perfect 8-0 in preseason, and it wasn’t a slate of creme puffs either. SC learned to win against a 5A school, four 4A schools, a decent Nevada team, Canyon View and Judge Memorial. Snow Canyon has a lot of experience, starting with four-year starting catcher Brady Sargent. The Warriors won’t go undefeated in region, but they should be good enough to contend for the region title.
Dixie has also started well, going 7-1 in the preseason. The Flyers have a bona fide star in shortstop/pitcher Drew Bailey and, like Snow Canyon, have looked solid defensively. By the way, this is the last season on the historic Don Lay Flyers Field. It’s a great place to watch a ball game and will be missed, though I’m told the new Flyers Field is very nice.
Canyon View is one of the big mysteries in Region 9. A playoff team a year ago, the Falcons didn’t have a great preseason, going 3-6 with three mercy-rule losses to Las Vegas schools in a tourney in southern Nevada. But ace Zack Brinkerhoff is a legitimate professional prospect who gives CV a pretty good chance to win every time he steps on the mound.
The Thunder are 5-4 and lost to Cedar in the Desert Hills Invitational semifinals. But a trio of pitchers, Brayson Hurdsman, Braiden Irvin and Kayson Bowler, should make D-Hills a contender.
The Redmen have started hot, going 8-1 and winning that DH tourney. Along with Lewis, Cedar features dynamic shortstop Rykker Tom,who can also pitch.
Hurricane, which went 4-4 in the preseason, has a pitching ace in Drake Hermansen. The Tigers were 1-11 in region last year, but things may be looking up. One of Hurricane’s preseason wins was over defending-champ Grantsville.
I guess what I’m saying is that this year’s region race seems to be wide open. I don’t see a clear-cut favorite. You could make a case that one of six teams could win the region title this year. Truth be told, the four teams that do get into the state playoffs will each be capable of winning it all and bringing the trophy back to southern Utah, where it belongs.
Here’s this week’s baseball schedule:
Canyon View at Cedar, 4 p.m.
Dixie at Hurricane, 7 p.m.
Pine View at Snow Canyon, 7 p.m. (broadcast on ESPN SportsRadio 106.1 FM)
Snow Canyon at Pine View, 7 p.m.
Cedar at Canyon View, 4 p.m.
Hurricane at Dixie, 7 p.m. (broadcast on ESPN SportsRadio 106.1 FM)
North Sanpete at Desert Hills (doubleheader), 10 a.m.
Cedar and Canyon View tied at 10-2 to earn co-region champs honors a year ago. Snow Canyon was a game behind in the top-heavy region in 2014. Dixie was the other playoff team as the Lady Flyers went 6-6.
The Lady Reds have virtually the entire roster back from last season, so it’s easy to say they are the favorites heading into region play. But Snow Canyon, led by a veteran roster full of stars like Heather Prestwich, Mada Mooring and Shelbee Hutchings, has put up big offensive numbers in the preseason and should be right there with the Lady Reds. Canyon View has started slow (1-6) and is having a hard time replacing pitching star Josie Platt from last season.
Expect Dixie, which is 4-3, to be better than their .500 record last season. Summer Simkins is an ace in the circle and Kylee Mills, Hannah Nyberg and the two Gelters, Stacia and Shaunna, are back to spark the offense.
Desert Hills looked like a playoff team early last season before fading down the stretch. The Lady Thunder are struggling to score runs this season and are 0-5. Pine View sits at 2-3 heading into region, where the :Lady Panthers were 3-9 last season. Hurricane has started 3-2 and hopes to rebound from an 0-12 season last year.
Here’s this week’s softball schedule:
Desert Hills at Snow Canyon, 4 p.m.
Hurricane at Canyon View, 4 p.m.
Pine View at Cedar, 4 p.m.
Hurricane at Desert Hills, 4 p.m.
Carbon at Pine View, 4 p.m.
Cedar at Dixie, 4 p.m.
Snow Canyon at Pine View, 4 p.m.
Boys soccer took a mini-break from region action over the last part of Spring Break, but the futballers are back at it tonight and Friday night.
Dixie, as the defending-champ, is still the favorite a couple of games into region play. The Flyers are 2-0-0 in region so far. But it’s hard to ignore what’s happening at Snow Canyon. The Warriors are 7-0-0 overall and 2-0-0 in region play — yep, still undefeated. And even more impressive is the goal differential. SC has outscored opponents 38-1 in seven games. Last season, Snow Canyon, which finished third in Region 9 at 7-4-1, scored 37 goals all year long.
The Warriors will be tested tonight by a Pine View team that has also started well. PV is 3-3-1 overall, but 2-0-0 in region, having beaten Canyon View and Desert Hills. After tonight, SC goes on the road for four straight games.
It seems like those three teams will make the playoffs, which makes it a real dogfight for that fourth playoff spot. Don’t forget, Cedar made it all the way to the championship game last season. Canyon View is much improved from last year’s 1-10-1 region record. Hurricane is also trying to pick up a couple more wins to get into playoff position.
Here’s this week’s soccer schedule:
Canyon View at Cedar, 7 p.m.
Dixie at Hurricane, 7 p.m.
Pine View at Snow Canyon, 7 p.m.
Hurricane at Canyon View, 4 p.m.
Cedar at Dixie, 7 p.m.
Snow Canyon at Desert Hills, 7 p.m.
“This Week in Region 9″ is a weekly column written by Andy Griffin exploring the happenings in Region 9 at all sports venues. The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of St. George News.
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