ST. GEORGE — Conner Clark, with his curly black hair refusing to be confined by his baseball cap, said sometimes people can make baseball too complicated.
Clark’s third hit against Desert Hills Friday night was the game-winner as he tripled home two runs in the top of the seventh to lift the Pine View Panthers to a 4-2 victory and a two-game sweep of the Thunder. The win gives Pine View the No. 1 seed from Region 9 and the Panthers will host a playoff “pod” next Saturday at Panther Field with an eye on a state tournament run.
“Conner is playing with a lot of confidence right now,” said PV coach Mike Gargano. “With any sport you’re playing, you get that confidence and then start building on it. And what’s keeping his confidence up is that he’s not trying to do too much. Every swing he takes he’s not trying to swing out of his backside. He’s just trying to make solid contact.”
Clark has gone from an ineligible player (early in the year) to a reserve, to a No. 9-hitter to a key component in the surging Panthers, batting third and playing a rangy and solid center field. He had three of the Panthers six hits in the game. He doubled and scored in the first inning and created those winning runs in the seventh.
But there were other heroes for Pine View in a game that well-played by both teams. Harrison Goebel pitched four innings of one-hit ball, though his wildness cost him a chance to continue and get the win. Brooks Barney pitched two innings of relief and got the win. Dakota Donovan got the save with a one-hit seventh inning. And seldom-used Jared Stirling pinch hit and beat out an infield single, stole second and eventually scored a run for Pine View in the fifth.
Pine View had led 2-0, but D-Hills tied it in the bottom of the fifth. After Goebel walked the first two batters in the fifth, Barney came in and gave up a two-run single to Braiden Irvin that tied the game. Barney got a strikeout, a flyout and a groundout to end the rally and leave Irvin at third base. Neither team scored in the sixth, setting up a dramatic seventh.
Hunter Hansen led off the top of the inning with a walk, prompting a visit to the mound and pitcher Brayson Hurdsman from DH skipper Jerry Beck. He elected to keep his ace in the game. Kash Walker bunted to try and move Hansen over, but the Thunder tried to get the lead runner at second and the throw was late, leaving two men on with nobody out.
Tyler Johnston also bunted, moving the runners to second and third with one out. That’s when Clark stepped up and on a 1-1 count, ripped a liner over first base and just inside the foul line. Hansen walked in and Walker scored as well and Clark didn’t slow down until he had slid into third with the three-bagger.
“I was sitting in the dugout and someone said, ‘Hey, he’s going to get a hit,'” Barney said. “The second I look over, he swings the bat and I see the first baseman jump and it’s over his head and everyone just started going crazy. It was pretty close to the line, but you could tell it was definitely fair.”
Gargano then elected to bring in Donovan, who threw 126 pitches in Tuesday’s victory over Desert Hills, to try and get the save in the seventh.
“D’s a competitor and wanted to throw,” Gargano said. “The way we engaged him is we told him, ‘Go down and throw and I want to hear what your velocity is and I want hear how your body is. Be honest with me.’ And he was just popping down there. And anytime he’s popping, that means his body’s still in control of what he’s doing and that made the decision easy.”
Donovan allowed a two-out single to Hurdsman, but was otherwise impressive, throwing 13 pitches, 10 of which were strikes.
The Panthers are definitely the hottest team in 3A right now, having won 11 of their last 12 contests. The hot streak comes after Pine View had opened region play with two losses to Snow Canyon. But Friday’s win makes the Panthers 9-3 in region, tied with D-Hills for the region title. PV gets the top seed by virtue of this week’s sweep and will host three teams from other regions Saturday, May 9 — Region 11 No. 2 Stansbury, Region 12 No. 3 Juab and Region 10 No. 4 Union. The Stallions (13-7) and Wasps (10-6) will likely play the early game Saturday with the Panthers (14-8) and Cougars (10-11) squaring off at around noon. The losers will then play an elimination game and the winners will play in the evening to advance in the championship bracket.
The Thunder, who got a gutsy pitching performance from the lefty Hurdsman, will have to settle for the No. 2 seed from Region 9 and will travel to Garland Saturday in the Bear River pod. Joining the Thunder (16-7) will be the Region 11 champ Bears (14-8), Region 10 No. 3 Juan Diego (11-9) and Region 12 No. 4 Richfield (8-13). Bear River will battle the Wildcats and Desert Hills will take on the Soaring Eagle in the first round with the winner and losers squaring off later in the day. Times have yet to be determined.
Cedar, which had a region bye this week, is the third seed and will travel to the Payson pod. the Redmen (17-5) will play Uintah (17-5) from Region 10 and the Lions (16-6) will battle Tooele (5-15).
Snow Canyon 15, Hurricane 5
The Tigers were looking to pull the upset with a 5-0 lead heading into the bottom of the second inning. But the Warriors proceeded to score 15 unanswered runs and pound out 14 hits en route to the mercy-rule shortened game at Warriors Field Friday night.
Hurricdane got a run in the first on a Drake Hermansen RBI double and plated four more in the second on an RBI single by Kyle Williams, a sac fly by Hermansen and a two-run single by Tobie Swenson to make it 5-0.
The Warriors, trying to clinch fourth place and a spot in the playoffs, picked up three runs in the bottom of the second as Issac Rhea singled in two runs and Jake Frei had an RBI on a sac fly.
Snow Canyon seized the lead in the third with a five-run rally. Jorgensen had an RBI double with no outs to make it 5-4. Brad Grisenti followed with a two-run single to make it 6-5 for the Warriors. With two outs and the bases loaded, Jake Sargent walked to get an RBI and make it 7-5 and Logan Opdahl scored on a wild pitch to make it 8-5.
The Warriors added four more in the fourth to make it 12-5, a run in the fifth to push it to 13-5 and then ended the game in the sixth with a two-run triple by Grisenti. He had three hits and four RBIs in the game and Frei knocked home three.
Snow Canyon finishes 7-5 in region, taking the fourth seed into the state tournament. SC will play in the Park City pod and will battle the Region 10-champion Miners (18-4) on their home field Saturday. Region 11’s Grantsville (8-14) and Region 12’s Carbon (10-10) will also play in Park City. Times have yet to be determined.
The Tigers, who got three hits Friday from Swenson, end the season with a 5-16 record.
Canyon View 12, Dixie 1
Earlier in the day the Falcons got what they hoped would earn them a play-in game (they needed Snow Canyon to lose) with an easy win over the Flyers.
CV won five of its last seven games, but it turns out it wasn’t enough to get the Falcons into the playoffs. They finish 11-11 overall and 6-6 in region.
After a promising preseason and three straight wins to start region play, Dixie closed the year with nine straight losses and were swept by Cedar, Pine View, Cedar and Canyon View. The Flyers finish 12-11 overall and 3-9 in region.
Final Region 9 Standings:
Pine View 9-3*
Desert Hills 9-3
Snow Canyon 7-5
Canyon View 6-6
* — Pine View wins tiebreaker with Desert Hills and gets No. 1 seed
Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2015, all rights reserved.