TAYLORSVILLE—The list of people expecting to see the Templars playing baseball last Friday was probably very short, but they went out with about as much style as anyone could have asked for.
Manti baseball outlasted expectations by a long way last week, following up their first-round loss last week with a run to the quarterfinals in the one-loss bracket. The No. 12 Templars started Thursday off with a huge upset win over No. 3 Union, 14-9, then served a spectacle on offense to upset No. 10 Delta, 23-17, later that afternoon.
Manti’s season ended on Friday morning when the No. 1 Juab Wasps, fresh off an upset loss to eventual champion Grantsville, brought them back to Earth with a 17-5 rout in five innings.
“Our bats really came alive during the state tournament,” head coach Jim Nelson said.
“We had a few players who had been in a hitting slump that broke out just at the right time. We had timely hitting, and we were able to string hits for big rallies.”
Manti’s string of 13, 14, and 23 runs over the one-loss bracket was the first time since March 25, 2019, that the Templars have scored double-digit runs in three straight games. Despite going into the postseason with a record of 7-10 near the bottom of Region 14, the Templars nearly matched their 2019 run through the playoffs that got them nearly to the semifinals.
“Finishing in the top five surprised a lot of people, so we were pretty excited,” Nelson said.
The Templars had struggled for most of the season to turn out great pitching results, so they turned to their bats against Union, and it paid off in a big way. The Templars lit up the plate from the start to go ahead, 4-0, at the top of the first inning. They never trailed in a big underdog victory to set up a quarterfinal day game with Delta.
Against Delta, the Rabbits got the better of Manti at the beginning, going up, 4-0, after the first inning. Then, Manti’s bats caught fire, and the Templars scored eight runs at the top of the second. Delta scored four more, and both teams scored two apiece in the third inning to tie it up at 10-10 going into the top of the fourth inning.
Manti pulled ahead, 13-11, after the fourth inning, but Delta answered back in a big way with six runs at the bottom of the fifth for a 17-13 lead.
At that point, the Templars offensive fire became a furnace, and Manti rattled off another eight runs at the top of the sixth, then added another two in the seventh to seal victory.
Manti’s batters combined for 19 hits against the Rabbits, the second time this season they had hit the ball that many times after they had 21 hits in their last game against North Sanpete. Of their 20 total RBIs, nine of them were scored by freshmen or sophomores as Coach Jim Nelson showcased Manti’s depth of capable hitters.
Juab proved a very different test for Manti, one the Templars were not presently capable of passing. The Wasps pulled ahead, 7-0, by the end of the second inning. Manti made things briefly interesting with four runs to answer back, but Juab hammered all four nails into the coffin at the bottom of the fourth with a 10-run display, enacting the 10-run rule to finish the game.
Manti finished the season 10-12 overall. The program will graduate six seniors: Jax Parry, Kade Cherry, Tanner Justesen, Nathan Squire, Jason Nelson and Cody Trythall.
“We sure missed not having a season last year,” Nelson said, “so making a great run in the tournament was a great ending, not only for our seniors, but for our entire team.”