ST. GEORGE – Five weeks ago, the Dixie Flyers dug themselves a hole. After losing both games in a region-opening two-game series against Desert Hills, Dixie was left with a lot of questions. Was their pre-region schedule weak? Were their gaudy hitting and pitching numbers just an illusion? Had they already lost the region title in the first week?
Friday night, the Flyers answered all those questions with an emphatic “No!” by reeling off their eighth straight win and claiming the 2017 Region 9 baseball title.
“We knew that we were going to have to get better,” said Dixie star Hobbs Nyberg. “Everybody’s tough in our region. We knew we were going to have to use those losses as motivation and try to get better every week. You have to play all seven innings of every game in this region. Nobody’s going to give it up to you.”
With the win over Cedar, the Flyers earned the right to host a first round “pod” next Saturday. Richfield (Region 12’s No. 4 team), Stansbury (Region 10 No. 2) and Ridgeline (Region 11 No. 3) will visit Flyer Field for the first two rounds of the playoffs. The tentative schedules are posted at the bottom of this story.
Desert Hills claimed the No. 2 seed from Region 9 with a win Friday over Hurricane. The Thunder will travel to the Park City pod and will play Carbon (Region 12 No. 3) in the first round. The Miners (Region 10 No. 1) and the Morgan Trojans (Region 11 No. 4) will also meet in that pod.
Pine View beat Snow Canyon Friday night, then won the coin toss to be the No. 3 seed from the region. The Panthers will travel to Bear River High and play Juab (Region 12 No. 2) in the first round. The Bears (Region 11 No. 1) will host Grantsville (Region 10 No. 4).
The Warriors drop to the No. 4 spot from Region 9, but will have a lot less travel with a game at Canyon View next week. The Falcons (Region 12 No. 1) will host the pod that also includes Juan Diego (Region 11 No. 2) and Union (Region 10 No. 3).
All teams will play two games in Saturday’s pods, with the first-round winners meeting in an evening game and the first-round losers playing an elimination game that afternoon.
Here’s a look at Friday’s final regular season games:
Dixie 6, Cedar 1
This eighth straight win was not the easiest of the streak. Hand it to Cedar, which won just one region game. The Redmen went into Friday’s game at Flyer Field loose and game. Cedar even scored first and threatened to take the lead again in the fourth inning.
But in the end, Dixie would not be denied its big night. The Flyers broke a 1-1 tie with four runs in the fourth, then added an insurance run in the fifth, to clinch the region title in style.
“Yeah, there was some pressure tonight, and we didn’t play our best, but we got the job done,” said Flyer center fielder Dayton Dempsey. “Against Desert Hills in Week 1, we played our worst baseball of the year and we knew it. We knew we had to clean up the defense and start hitting the ball.”
Dempsey, who had two hits and two stolen bases Friday night, opened his LDS mission call after the game in front of the team and family. He was elated when he announced his call to Suva, Fiji, the same mission teammate and fellow Academic All-State honoree Jacob English has been called to. The two report to the Mission Training Center the same day, July 26.
A pivotal moment in Friday’s game came in the top of the fourth. Dixie had just had a run negated in the third when a baserunner left third base early on a sacrifice fly attempt. So, with the score 1-1, Cedar managed to load the bases on Dixie pitcher Tyson Fisher with two outs.
With Ethan Boettcher at the plate and a 1-1 count, Redmen baserunner Luke Maggio got a great jump and attempted to steal home ahead of the pitch by Fisher. As he neared the plate, Fisher delivered a fastball high and inside that catcher Chase Lundin deftly fielded and transitioned into a swipe tag on Lewis. The out seemed to wake up the sleeping Dixie bats.
“It was a bang bang play and I thought we got him out, and we got the call,” Dixie coach Danny Ipson said. “It was a good one their part to see if they could grab a little momentum on that. For us, that created a little momentum coming back into the dugout. We were looking to be in a situation where we could get some timely hits.”
And that’s what happened in the bottom of the fourth. Stockton Sorden singled to lead off, then Kaden Leavitt reached on an error. Nyberg followed with a line-drive single to center to score Sorden and make it 2-1. The next batter, Dempsey, shot one into left field to bring Leavitt home and make it 3-1.
Nyberg scored moments later on a wild pitch and Dempsey completed the four-run rally by stealing home on a double steal with Payden Harrah also stealing second. Sorden also scored in the fifth on a balk by the Cedar pitcher.
The Flyers rode the big arm of Fisher, though the junior righty had a rough start, allowing two hits and a run in the first inning.
“It seems like that first inning just kills me,” Fisher said. “If I can get through the first with minimal damage, I lock it in after that. I wasn’t very happy with myself. I left pitches up in the zone and they got to them.”
Fisher did lock it in after that. He allowed one more hit the rest of the game, though he did hit a couple of batters and give up one walk. He sent Cedar down in order in the second, fifth and sixth and then gave way to Kayler Yates, who pitched a perfect seventh by striking out the side.
Fisher and Yates combined to strike out 11 Redmen, allowing just three hits and one walk.
Lewis had the RBI in the top of the first for Cedar and Wyatt Woodland singled home the equalizer in the bottom of the first.
Dixie, 19-3, had six hits and four walks off Cedar starter Bridger Bunnell, who matched Fisher pitch for pitch until the fourth inning. Bunnell went five innings and allowed six hits, striking out four. Only two of Dixie’s six runs were earned.
Fisher gets his sixth win of the year, tying him for tops in Region 9 with Snow Canyon’s Breck Eichelberger. Fisher also finishes as the top strikeout artist (64 in eight starts) in the region and ends up in the top five in earned run average (1.71), innings pitched (45), opponent batting average (.156) and in the top 10 in strikeout/walk ratio (2.37) and WHIP (walks/hits per innings pitched) at 1.16.
The Flyers have eight days to prepare for the playoff pod, which is May 13. Dixie will play Richfield, most likely at noon. The 9 a.m. game will be Stansbury vs. Ridgeline. The losers play at 3 p.m. with the winners squaring off at 6 p.m.
Cedar ends the year with a 7-13 record, 1-9 in Region 9 play.
Desert Hills 7, Hurricane 1
The Thunder were hoping for a Cedar upset as they held the tiebreaker over Dixie. But by the time DH had finished its six-run win over the Tigers, news had already spread that the Flyers had clinched the title.
“I was a big Cedar fan for one week this week,” Desert Hills coach Chris Allred said. “But you know, we’re not unhappy with where we’re at. Obviously, the one seed is the objective. But you have to beat all the best teams to win the title anyway. And going to the Park City pod is not too bad.”
Drew Thorpe, just a sophomore, has emerged as an ace for the Thunder. Friday, he threw an efficient 87 pitches against the Tigers, allowing five hits and one earned run. He struck out eight. His five wins is good enough for third in the region and the young righty ends up with the best earned run average in Region 9, allowing 0.95 runs per seven innings.
“When he’s on, which is just about every outing, he’s hard to beat,” Allred said. “We threw him a lot this summer and every outing he gave up one or no runs. We weren’t sure if it was the other teams or if he was that good. But he just kept doing it over and over. We finally figured out that he’s pretty darn good.”
DH built a 5-0 lead, with Thorpe retiring 10 of the first 11 batters he faced, throwing a one-hit shutout into the fourth inning.
Hurricane put together a threat in the bottom of the fourth after a single by Nick Horsley and an error and walk. But the Tigers ended the inning on the base paths as a runner was cut down trying to score on a ball that trickled away from Thunder catcher Mason Creager. He fielded the loose ball and flipped to Thorpe covering the plate, who tagged out the runner.
Thorpe lost his shutout in the fifth when Noah Humphrey singled home Kolby Heaton.
Thorpe and fellow sophomore Creager were also demons at the plate. Thorpe had two hits and walked twice and Creager had a pair of hits and two RBIs.
“Mason is just perfect to have behind the plate because he is so even-keeled,” Allred said. “He never gets too high and never gets too low. And when he hits the ball, it just has a different sound when it comes off the bat. He’s one of those kids that it feels like he could hit one out every time he’s up.”
The Thunder snagged the lead early, scoring four runs in the top of the first inning. Sam Rhoton had a one-out double to score Seth Betts. Two batters later, Bronson Andrus singled home Rhoton to make it 2-0. Creager capped the rally with a two-run double to make it 4-0.
Betts had an RBI in the fourth to make it 5-0 and Blake Milne scored on a Hurricane error to make it 6-0 in the fifth. DH’s final run came in the top of the sixth when Thorpe forced home a run with an RBI walk that scored Betts.
Alex Ekins pitched the final two innings for Desert Hills, allowing no hits and one walk.
Desert Hills, 17-5, will likely play the early game next Saturday at Park City High School. The Thunder will battle Carbon (Region 12 No. 3) in the first round and then square off with the winner/loser of Park City-Logan.
Hurricane, which had five hits in the game (two by Humphrey), closes out the season with an 8-14 record, going 2-8 in region play. Both wins were against Cedar. Alec Flemetakis was 0 for 3 in the game, but will end up in the top five in the region in batting average, on base percentage, runs scored and slugging percentage.
Pine View 8, Snow Canyon 3
Rumors had circulated after the Panthers 11-1 loss on Tuesday that Pine View was purposely trying to lose and come in fourth place in the region, meaning a trip to Canyon View, rather than a trip to Bear River for the third seed. Pine View coach Troy Wall heard the whisperings.
“Yeah, I heard people saying that,” he said. “The truth is, we were trying very hard to win Tuesday. We just had a few things go against us and it kind of snowballed in that first inning. That’s baseball for you. It happens.”
Dispelling all rumors was the Pine View team that hit the diamond Friday night. With Jagun Leavitt on the mound and the Panther bats smoking hot, PV never trailed in this game. In fact, the only thing Pine View did wrong was win the coin toss.
“We knew if we won, it would come down to a coin toss and we were O.K. with that,” Wall said. “Even when we lost the coin toss, I mean, won the coin toss, we were O.K. Matchup-wise, I think going to the Bear River pod is better than the Canyon View pod. We just worry about the weather, and if we’ll be able to get two games in next Saturday.”
Leavitt wasn’t as sharp as he has been the past couple of weeks, but the right-hander was still pretty good. He allowed four hits and three runs in six innings of work. He walked four and struck out four.
“He wasn’t as in control as he has been, but part of that is Snow Canyon – they’re a very disciplined team,” Wall said. “The thing with Jagun, and I told him this, is that he’s like D (Dakota Donovan) the past few years – every time he’s on the mound, we feel like we’re going to get a win.”
Matt Kitchen started for Snow Canyon and he dueled Leavitt straight up until the bottom of the third. After Kory Taigan and Jarod Stirling drew walks, Dawson Staheli stepped up to the plate. He got behind 0-2, fouled a ball off, then worked the count full. The next pitch was a fastball that Staheli deposited over the left field fence for a three-run homer that broke the scoreless tie. It was Staheli’s second dinger of the season.
Pine View made it 5-0 in the bottom of the fifth on an RBI triple by Erik Sanchez and a run-scoring single by Tanner Staheli.
A Panther error and RBI hits from Austin Deming and Braden Baker cut it to 5-3 in the top of the sixth. All three runs came with no outs, but Leavitt killed the rally by inducing a ground out and a 6-4-3 double play.
Taigan scored on a wild pitch and Sanchez then put the game away with a two-run single in the bottom of the sixth that made it 8-3.
“Tonight, we were swinging the bats a lot more like Pine View baseball,” Wall said. “It’s great to have Erik Sanchez back all the way. I always tease him because he doesn’t look like a No. 4 hitter, but he always comes through for us.”
Sanchez had two hits and three RBIs, while Leavitt and Tanner Staheli also had two hits each. Taigan had three walks, a stolen base and two runs scored.
The Panthers, 12-10, play Juab May 13 up at Bear River High in Garland in what will likely be the early game of the day. The Bears will then battle Grantsville, followed by the losers, then winners games.
Snow Canyon, which got two hits from Jamison Day, falls to 14-9 on the year. The Warriors will play at Canyon View May 13 against the host Falcons. The other matchup in the Canyon View pod pits Juan Diego vs. Union. The losers of the two games will then play an elimination game, followed by a no-loss bracket game between the winners.
Stats notes: Nyberg ended up as the top hitter in Region 9 with a batting average of .507. Nyberg also scored 37 runs, the most in the region. Fisher won the RBI race with 34, one ahead of Deming, who was tops in on-base percentage and slugging. For more on the batting champs and the pitching leaders, watch the Region 9 Hardball Show on Monday.
3A State Tournament Pods (first and second rounds)
(times are approximate and subject to change)
@ Canyon View
Juan Diego (15-9) vs. Grantsville (12-10), 9 a.m.
Canyon View (14-8) vs. Snow Canyon (14-9), noon
Elimination game, 3 p.m.
No-loss game, 6 p.m.
Stansbury (13-9) vs. Ridgeline (13-5), 9 a.m.
Dixie (19-3) vs. Richfield (8-15), noon
Elimination game, 3 p.m.
No-loss game, 6 p.m.
@ Park City
Desert Hills (17-5) vs. Carbon (11-10), 9 a.m.
Park City (19-3) vs. Morgan (5-15), noon
Elimination game, 3 p.m.
No-loss game, 6 p.m.
@ Bear River
Pine View (12-10) vs. Juab (13-8), 9 a.m.
Bear River (18-6) vs. Union (9-12), noon
Elimination game, 3 p.m.
No-loss game, 6 p.m.
REGION 9 BASEBALL FINAL STANDINGS
Dixie 8-2 (19-3)
Desert Hills 7-3 (17-5)
Pine View 6-4 (12-10)
Snow Canyon 6-4 (14-9)
Hurricane 2-8 (8-14)
Cedar 1-9 (6-13)
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