Gunnison Valley dominates in first two matchups

Seeking to close out the bottom of the 5th inning and secure a 10-0 victory before snow forced play to halt, sophomore Jake Sorenson at third base, senior Janzen Keisel at shortstop and a Millard baserunner await the pitch to come. Photo courtesy of Max Sanders

In its opening week, the Gunnison Valley baseball team outscored two opponents by a combined score of 31-1.

The Bulldogs twice invoked the mercy rule, first in Provo against Timpview, 21-1, then at Millard, 10-0.

“Defensively, we’re exactly where I want to be at this point in the season,” said Coach Max Sanders. On offense, he still sees room for improvement, despite the two big run totals the team managed so far.

In the season opener at Timpview, Gunnison Valley bats started out hot, scoring 5 runs in the first inning and achieving the 10-run margin necessary to bring the mercy rule into effect by the third inning. According to that rule, a game ends after five or more innings if the margin is 10 or more runs.

But at this game, the focus was on the defense. In the stands were scouts from “11 or 12” professional organizations who came to see Gunnison senior Janzen Keisel pitch.

“It was definitely a unique experience for me,” Sanders said about having so much attention from major league teams.

Of Keisel’s performance on the mound in three innings, Sanders said, “I’ve seen him do better, and I know he knows he’s done better, but it’s hard to argue with nine strikeouts in three innings.”

Keisel only allowed two baserunners and one run. Senior Talon Belnap pitched the remaining two innings and held the Thunderbirds scoreless.

The 21-run effort saw contributions from throughout the batting lineup. Senior Creed Mogle went 3-4 with a home run and 4 RBIs. Keisel had two hits, a double and a triple. Junior Makade Zufelt reached base five times in five plate appearances on one hit and four walks. Senior Harley Hill went 3-4 with a double and 2 RBIs. All stats are reported from MaxPreps.com.

The next game at region rival Millard was not the same degree of slug fest, but Gunnison Valley did manage to reach the 10-run margin after five innings just in time to make the game official before the snow came.

“Offensively, we struggled a little bit, but Creed pitched really well, and Colter King stepped in and caught really well,” the coach said.

On the mound, Mogle pitched a complete game and allowed only four baserunners, striking out 10 batters.

Mogle also led Bulldog hitters with two hits, including a double. Six players had at least one hit.

This week, including yesterday’s home opener against Millard again, the team has five games. Four of those will take place on Friday and Saturday at the Kanab Chuckwagon Classic, a tournament Sanders said the team has played in going back decades and is an early-season opportunity to provide in-game reps for players.

“Obviously you want to win games, but that becomes a little bit less of our focus,” Sanders said. “It’s an experience-type tournament. Realistically, we’re looking at options we have off the bench, trying to get some kids off the bench and in the games.”