ST. GEORGE – Good players can turn a bad play into a good play and a bad game into a victory. That’s what happened Thursday night as Snow Canyon fended off a Cedar rally for an 8-7 Region 9 victory at Warrior Field.
Snow Canyon actually led 7-0 in the game and appeared to be headed for its second straight blowout of the Redmen. But Cedar plated three runs in the top of the fifth and four more in the top of the seventh to make it 8-7. With runners at first and third and two outs, SC reliever Makai Lee crossed up his catcher by throwing a fastball outside. Behind the plate, Austin Staheli had set up for an inside pitch. The heater got by him, though he managed to graze it with his glove.
As soon as the passed ball escaped, Staheli sprinted for it back and to his left near the backstop. Lee saw the play and sprinted from the mound to cover the plate as Cedar base runner Ethan Boettcher broke for home. In one swift motion, Staheli scooped the ball up and slung it toward home. Lee got there just in time to field the throw and swipe the tag onto Boettcher, ending the rally and the game.
“Makai’s taught to be at home plate on a passed ball and he was there, so that was good,” Staheli said. “I knew he was going to be there. I just had to get back there and then make a good throw to him. I had trust that he would be there and then the throw was right where it needed to be.”
By the time Lee was called on to try and get the last out, the Cedar comeback had reached epic proportions. Snow Canyon had nearly sent the game into mercy-rule mode with seven runs in the first four innings. But the Warriors lead could have and maybe should have been much bigger. Snow Canyon left the bases loaded in the first and third innings and left three more runners on base in the second and fourth innings.
“We got up pretty early and I think some of us – I know I did – kind of took it off and thought it was easy,” Staheli said. “No game’s easy in Region 9. We’ve always got to be ready to play. We made plays early, but then we got lazy and didn’t make some plays that we usually do, plays that are routine.”
Staheli had a pair of doubles at the plate and his speed up runner, Brooks Sampson, scored twice in helping Snow Canyon to the big lead. The Warriors scored a run in the first, two in the second, one in the third and three more in the bottom of the fourth. With pitcher Jed Jensen seemingly on cruise control (only two hits and a walk through four innings), it seemed like SC was headed for its sixth straight region blowout win.
But Cedar got a couple of hits and a couple of breaks in the top of the fifth. Jake Jenkins reached on a one-out error and Luke Maggio followed with a single to left. McClain Anderson then drove a ball down the line in right field to score both runners and make it 7-2. A couple of batters later, Chase Houston singled home the third run to make it 7-3.
But the game still seemed comfortably in Warrior hands when Braden Baker sacrificed home Zack Nowatzke in the bottom of the sixth on a deep fly ball to make it 8-3.
And then came the top of the seventh.
With Jed Jensen still on the mound, Cedar got the first two runners on via a walk and a Snow Canyon error. After a popout, Houston hit a dying quail of a fly ball to left field that Nowatzke bobbled and dropped. The second error of that inning scored Maggio and made it 8-4.
“I thought we were playing the game like we were losing,” SC coach Reed Secrist. “We just made some bad plays and bad decisions. In the end, it’s good to see that we can play badly and still get a win. But I was certainly frustrated. Thank goodness we made that last play.”
The next batter, Markus Johnson, ripped a double to left field that scored Logan Smith and made it 8-5. Bridger Bunnell followed with a single to right field that scored Houston and sent Johnson to third base. Boettcher then stepped up and hit what looked like a double play ball to Austin Deming at short. Deming tossed to Brock Secrist for the second out, but Boettcher dove into first base just ahead of the relay throw to keep the game alive. Johnson scored on the play to make it 8-7 with two outs and Boettcher on first.
Andre Castaneda kept the rally going with a single over second base and the SC right fielder overran the ball, allowing Boettcher to move over to third base.
That brought up left-hander Jake Jenkins and prompted Warrior coach Secrist to bring in lefty reliever Lee. His first two pitchers were heaters that blew right past Jenkins. A pitch in the dirt put the count at 1-2. Then, with the tying run at third and the potential go-ahead run at second, came the fateful passed ball.
“It’s deeply ingrained in our pitchers’ heads to hustle and cover the plate on that type of play,” Secrist said. “I wasn’t surprised that Makai Lee was there to cover the plate. He’s a quick kid and I think Cedar’s runner had a hard time getting started on the play. Plus, I would have killed Makai if he hadn’t been there.”
Jed Jensen gets the win, his fourth of the season, despite giving up nine hits and seven runs. Only one of the seven runs was earned in the game. Lee gets his first save of the season. Staheli and Jensen had two hits each for the Warriors, with Snow Canyon drawing nine walks and having three hit batsmen.
Castaneda and Anderson had two hits each for Cedar, with Anderson and Houston knocking in two runs each.
The Warriors head into their bye week next week with a 17-1 record (6-0 in region), having emerged victorious in the last seven straight. SC will play at Vegas powerhouse Bishop Gorman next Wednesday at 3:30 p.m. The Redmen, 8-7 and 3-3, have a two-game set against Pine View. The first one is at Pine View Tuesday night at 7:30.
Thursday’s Region 9 result
Snow Canyon 8, Cedar 7
Region 9 standings (region, overall)
Snow Canyon 6-0, 16-1
Dixie 3-0, 14-2
Cedar 3-3, 8-7
Pine View 2-2, 9-3
Desert Hills 2-3, 9-4
Hurricane 0-3, 7-7
Canyon View 0-5, 5-9
Desert Hills at Canyon View, 4 p.m.
Hurricane at Dixie, 7:30 p.m.
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