All teams have clean slate before baseballs start flying
At some point in time, all the snow and slush of the fading winter season will melt away, and there will be baseball diamonds under it.
As March begins, so commences the beginning of Utah high school baseball, and fans have a short time to look back on what was before slates are wiped clean to begin anew. North Sanpete, Manti, Gunnison, and Wasatch Academy all have hopes of building upon the successes and failures of last season.
It’s not comforting to consider that last season was one of the Hawks’ better ones in recent history, only managing a paltry 3-18 record, but it very well may be the reality.
Last season marked the 13th straight year of North Sanpete missing the playoffs, and the streak of futility has been anything but smooth. Several winless seasons have marked the sordid campaign, with the rest rarely going beyond a couple of victories. Last season saw the Hawks shut out in six different games.
Also, a reality is the parity among all other teams in Region 12. While Canyon View and North Sanpete took the top and bottom of region standings, respectively, last year, less than four games difference separated the other three teams. To be competitive in region, the Hawks will have to rise to the level of everyone else, not just a team or two.
While North Sanpete isn’t expected to be outright extraordinary, improvements can still be made. The Hawks return a handful of players including junior Shawn Taylor and junior Keegan Eliason. Overall, this Hawks team has plenty of work cut out for them.
North Sanpete began their season on the road against Emery on Tuesday at 3 p.m (score unavailable). They will then play in the Chuck Wagon Classic in Kanab this weekend. They will face Millard and Kanab tomorrow and Gunnison and Fredonia, Ariz. on Saturday.
The Templars are out for redemption this year as their title defense from 2015 didn’t quite go as planned.
After opening the season on a five-game losing streak, last year saw an early tournament exit by Manti who lost their first-round game of the 2A playoffs to Grand. The Templars stayed alive in the one-loss bracket but only long enough for the Red Devils to oust them completely by beating them a second time, concluding their 13-12 season.
Manti reportedly only returns one junior, Marshall Dotson, from last year, but has a hefty supply of last year’s freshman and sophomore classes coming back with experience. Their struggling 2016 season may be attributed to rebuilding, which can only be seen by the coming season.
The Templars will begin their season in Kanab for the annual Chuck Wagon Classic. Their first game of the tournament is tomorrow against Beaver, after which they face Fredonia, Ariz. On Saturday, they will take on Millard and Enterprise. After the tournament, they play Delta on the road the following Tuesday.
The state of Utah holds high expectations for the Bulldogs this spring, and the rankings reflect it.
Gunnison enters this baseball season ranked No. 2 in the competitive 2A class per Deseret News preseason rankings, just behind Grand County. Last year, a quality season clipped one of the last hurdles before the finish line as the Bulldogs fell to Summit Academy in the 2A second round of the playoffs, 3-2. Grand later eliminated Gunnison.
This year looks up for a multitude of reasons, not the least of which is the return of senior pitcher Drew Hill, who was named to the All-2A first team last year, pitching 134 strikeouts with a 9-2 record.
“Definitely, our number-one strength is our pitching,” head coach Jared Anderson said. “We do have some holes to fill and are looking for some of our underclassman athletes to step up and fill these roles for our team to be successful.”
Alongside Hill, fellow seniors Gage Mogle and Kade Peterson return, while underclassman Parx Bartholomew returns after hitting three doubles and three triples last year.
The Bulldogs begin the season with an away game against Kanab today at 3:30 p.m. This weekend, Gunnison will play in the Chuck Wagon Classic in Kanab. They’ll play Enterprise and Morgan on tomorrow before facing Beaver and North Sanpete on Saturday.
To say that the Wasatch Academy baseball program is in need of some rehabilitation would be an understatement, but it looks like the Tigers are finally getting one.
After the Tigers had produced five winless seasons and only one win in the last six years, it was time for a change. Now the reigns are in the hands of first-year head coach Mike Jarman of Fairview. Jarman takes over after Travis Madsen, the Academy’s athletic director, advertised the job in the newspaper that he held on the side. Madsen sought to put someone in place who could give full attention to the struggling team.
That was how Madsen found Jarman.
“Once I saw the opportunity, I figured I would go for it,” Jarman said. “I’ve always dreamed of being able to do this.”
Jarman has an uphill battle this season. Before he seeks for wins, he first has to find some dedication.
“The last two seasons, they’ve had a huge problem with even getting enough kids to play,” Jarman said. “My biggest thing is working to recruit within the school and to find those who have experience. All I need right now is dedication and commitment to the team. It may not work so well with the seniors, but with the incoming freshmen and sophomores, we really have to get back down to fundamentals.”
One can only hope the wins will come sooner than later.
Wasatch begins their season on Wednesday, Mar. 22, on the road against Providence Hall.