ST. GEORGE — Pine View was a near-unanimous pick to win the Region 9 crown by both the coaches and the media at the 2016 Region 9 Baseball Media Day Wednesday at the St. George News/KCSG studios.
“We realize there is going to be a target on our backs and that’s O.K.,” said Panther head coach Troy Wall.
The first-year coach, who took over the reins at Pine View when previous coach Mike Gargano accepted a position at alma mater Dixie State, inherited a team with five returning starters, including ace starting pitcher Dakota Donovan, the region co-MVP from last season.
Donovan, a senior who has been pitching at the varsity level since his freshman year, received the most votes in the preseason MVP balloting. The right-hander, who has committed to play college baseball at Oregon State University, had his name appear on every single ballot. The six region head coaches and the members of the media were asked to select five players who deserved MVP consideration.
Cedar High shortstop Rykker Tom was on eight of the nine ballots, with Desert Hills pitcher/slugger Brayson Hurdsman making seven of the nine ballots.
Other players receiving multiple preseason MVP/all-region votes include Snow Canyon shortstop Austin Deming (5), Pine View pitcher/first baseman Brooks Barney (4), Hurricane pitcher/outfielder Kyle Williams (2), Snow Canyon second baseman Nick Dolce (2) and Cedar slugger Trey Esplin (2).
Others receiving at least one vote were Hurricane’s Tobie Swenson, SC’s Garrett Hyde, Dixie’s Tyson Fisher, Dixie’s Trevor Connell, DH’s Preston Creager, PV’s Logan LaFemina, Dixie’s Hobbs Nyberg, PV’s Connor Clark, DH’s Trey Winget and PV’s Tyler Johnston.
Pine View received five of six first-place votes from the league’s coaches. The defending state champions scored 29 of a possible 30 points in the balloting. Cedar, which lost to Pine View in the state championship game last May, came in with 25 points, receiving three second-place votes, two thirds and one fifth. Desert Hills was picked to finish third, with 23 points. The Thunder received two second-place votes, one third and two fourths. Snow Canyon was picked fourth and received the only other first-place vote. SC had 19 points, with Dixie collecting 15 and Hurricane collecting nine.
The media was unanimous in picking Pine View to win the region, with Cedar second, Desert Hills third, Snow Canyon fourth, Dixie fifth and Hurricane sixth.
“Pine View is the champ until someone takes that away from them,” ESPN Radio’s Mike McGary said. “Certainly everyone will be gunning for them, but they’re probably used to that.”
Each team was allotted 20 minutes to face a media panel consisting of Andy Griffin from STGNews.com, and McGary and Devin Dixon from ESPN Radio. The event, which will be archived on stgnews.com, was the first of its kind for baseball in southern Utah.
ESPN Radio (97.7 FM) will begin broadcasting baseball games this season at the start of region play (Apr. 5).
St. George News will continue its full coverage of Region 9 baseball all season long, plus will also begin the Region 9 Hardball Show Apr. 4, featuring Griffin’s insight, stats and highlights from region games, building up to the 3A State Tournament, which begins in mid-May.
Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2016, all rights reserved.