ST. GEORGE — Traton Staheli didn’t pump his fist as he walked off the mound. He didn’t scream, “Let’s go,” or any other top-of-the-list generic athlete excitement line. Instead, he simply shook his head and lifted his index finger to his lips as he looked to his own bench.
He had just silenced Dixie’s bats over six shutout innings. Shortly after, Pine View celebrated its sixth win in as many tries in Region 9 play. Staheli and the rest of the Panthers pitching staff has quieted three different lineups to lead the team to the top of the Region 9 standings as the halfway point of the season arrives this week. Pine View is the only team without a loss to another regional team remaining and the early success has their aims set high.
“Dixie’s a tough team,” Staheli told St. George News Thursday night following the win. “Definitely a team we have to sweep to take the region.”
The Panthers won 5-0, but only one of their scored runs was earned. Staheli and Grayson Erickson for the Flyers went toe-to-toe on the mound with the difference in the game coming from lapses by the Dixie defense. Staheli gave up only three hits, all on grounders that found holes in the infield. He relied on his outfielders a little, including a running grab by left fielder Bridger DeSpain to save a run. However, he dominated the Flyers the majority of the night, striking out seven.
Brandon Roundy capped the seventh inning by striking out the side with a walk. The shushing was unnecessary. The Flyers bats were already silent.
It wasn’t the first time this season the Panthers have sent the other team back to the dugout disappointed consistently, either. In the 48 pitching performances across Region 9 competition this season, teams have held the opponent below six runs 25 times, right around half of the time. Regional teams as a whole are 20-5 when giving up fewer than six. The Panthers’ pitching staff has done so in each of their six games and are subsequently undefeated.
Dixie scored five runs in game one and Pine View narrowly escaped by scoring six. In the season-opening series, the Hurricane Tigers scored only three runs across two games against the Panthers. In the next week’s series with Crimson Cliffs, the Mustangs scored five total.
Brandon Roundy and his twin brother Brock have been key figures as support options but the success runs through Staheli, the team ace with the big fastball.
Across his three starts this season, Staheli has thrown 14 innings, allowing just seven hits and three runs. He’s struck out 26. At times, he’s just wanted to throw the ball as hard as possible, which has led to some control issues. But what teenager with a fastball that can reach mid-90s on the radar gun wouldn’t want to just grip it and rip it?
Against Hurricane on March 26, Staheli walked three and threw four wild pitches. He gave up three runs. In his next two starts, he calmed his control down and neither opponent could score on him. Against Dixie, he let some pitches fly but also mixed in his changeup and curveball, both decent pitches in their own right, effectively and kept the Flyers off balance.
“He’s coming into his own,” Pine View head coach Glen MacLellan said. “We’ve got to sometimes control him and bring him down a little bit because he just wants to let go and throw and at that point in time, nobody knows where it’s going. We want him to learn to control that and just throw strikes. He’s really maturing and he’s doing exactly what we’re asking of him.”
Brock Roundy served as the series-opening starter through the first three weeks, pitching effectively in his own right. He threw a complete-game shutout against Hurricane, struck out seven against Crimson over six innings and allowed just three unearned runs against Dixie. Brandon Roundy has four relief appearances with a 4.70 ERA in those contests, a respectable number for a guy who has been asked to work 2.2 innings maximum at a time. Brady Barney is the only other player to pitch for the Panthers over six games, throwing a scoreless inning on March 26.
The core trio of pitching has been indispensably dominant as Pine View has, at times, struggled with the bats. MacLellan said he wasn’t pleased with his team’s discipline against Dixie. They posted 18 runs against Hurricane in one game but are also responsible for handing teams two of the five losses in Region 9 when allowing fewer than six runs. The Pine View pitching staff has kept the team in games.
As Staheli said, topping Dixie was a big step toward the region title. The Flyers’ offense has proven potent against tough opponents like Desert Hills. But the road doesn’t get easier. The Panthers play two against Cedar this week before taking on Snow Canyon, owner of a team batting average of .400, the week after.
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