Cache Valley cools St. George bats, takes AL state championship

File photo of St. George Sentinels vs. Southern Nevada Bulls, Baseball, July 20, 2016, | Photo by Robert Hoppie, ASPpix.com, St. George News

LAYTON — The way the St. George Sentinels had been swinging the bats, it was going to take a monumental effort to shut them down.

legionlogoAnd that’s exactly what Cache Valley got Friday from left-hander Jarrett Hunt in the championship of the American Legion state tournament at Layton High School in an 8-0 title-clinching win.

“They threw that lefty at us and he kept us off-balance all game,” St. George coach Shane Johanson said. “We hit a few balls hard, but just couldn’t string any of them together. That pitcher was very effective. He didn’t throw hard, threw a lot of breaking stuff, but he worked the outside corner very well. It just wasn’t our day.”

Hunt, who was a senior last season for 5A Mountain Crest, was named the 2016 American Legion baseball MVP. He was nearly unhittable on this day, allowing just two St. George base runners to make it to second base and no runners beyond that.

It helped, too, that the Cache Valley squad scored at least one run in each of the first four innings to build that 8-0 lead and give Hunt a cushion.

File photo from St. George Sentinels vs. Salt Lake City Gulls, American Legion Baseball, St. George, Utah, June 12, 2015, | Photo by Robert Hoppie, ASPpix.com, St. George News
File photo from St. George Sentinels vs. Salt Lake City Gulls, American Legion Baseball, St. George, Utah, June 12, 2015, | Photo by Robert Hoppie, ASPpix.com, St. George News

“We started Brooks Barney, but he was having some issues with a sore elbow, so we yanked him after the first inning,” Johanson said. “You know, we got in a little hole early and when we didn’t respond, it just got deeper and deeper.”

Johanson was quick to point out the positives of a big summer for the Sentinels.

“We didn’t have as good a record as we have the past couple of years, but we played a much more difficult schedule,” he said. “Summer is always a challenge with other things going on and, of course, the heat that we have to deal with. You usually have to keep the team motivated to keep coming out. But this team was just the opposite. Our core guys worked really hard and across the board, they all got better this summer.”

One of those guys was catcher Ryke Erickson. The upcoming Pine View junior was named defensive MVP of the state tournament.

Ryke Erickson, St. George Sentinels vs. Salt Lake City Gulls, American Legion Baseball, St. George, Utah, June 12, 2015, | Photo by Robert Hoppie, ASPpix.com, St. George News
Ryke Erickson, St. George Sentinels vs. Salt Lake City Gulls, American Legion Baseball, St. George, Utah, June 12, 2015, | Photo by Robert Hoppie, ASPpix.com, St. George News

“He came out and really grabbed the bull by the horns this summer,” Johanson said. “He worked really hard and became a leader on this team. He is a great example of overall teamwork and he took things very seriously this summer.”

The Sentinels, who finish 20-13 on the season, have now placed in the top three in the state for three years in a row. In 2014, the Sentinels were second to Helper. Last season, St. George ended up third with Mountain Crest winning it. This year, another silver trophy will have to do.

“Certainly winning is one of our goals, but not the only goal,” Johanson said. “One of our main goals was to appropriately represent our community and our American Legion post — the legionnaires who have given up so much for us. It’s hard enough for these young guys to come play baseball when it’s 105, but those (legionnaires) were out there for every home game honoring our country. Hopefully we made them proud.”

Most of the stars of the 2016 team will still be eligible to play in 2017 — they must be 19 or younger.

“If we can shore up the pitching a little bit, we should be pretty good,” Johanson said. “Then maybe we can make another run at it.”

Email: sports@stgnews.com

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Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2016, all rights reserved.

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