THE CRACK OF THE BAT
Baseball, softball preview
of high school sports
By Matt Harris
Farewell to the hardwood, and hello to the diamond and dirt.
A new season of high school baseball began in Sanpete this week, and now that Manti girls’ soccer and Manti boys’ basketball have claimed state titles in the previous fall and winter seasons of high school sports, it remains to be seen if the trifecta can be completed in the sport that has been the calling card of south and central Utah for years.
Baseball season features teams from Manti, North Sanpete and Gunnison Valley high schools. These three teams will take to the 3A and 2A fields looking for another fresh batch of school pride.
Time will tell how well-prepared they were.
Coming off a disappointing playoff run, the Templars still had plenty of success to hang their hats on in the 2019 season.
After posting sub-.500 records each season since 2015, Manti baseball took an energy pill in 2019 and had a resurgent 16-8 season, went 9-3 in Region 15, took second place in region play, and looked to be back on track.
The trouble was their success did not translate into a significant playoff run.
The Templars, in prior seasons, had developed a penchant for playoff toughness no matter what they did the regular season. The best example was their quarterfinal run in 2018 following a 7-14 regular season disaster. In 2019, however, the script was flipped as Manti’s successful March and April resulted in a letdown, a third-round exit and quick ousting from the playoffs in May.
Manti fell to Summit Academy, 12-0 in the quarterfinal round before being ousted of the one-loss bracket by Union, 12-0.
The Templars were led by a crop of seven seniors, including seniors Adam Huff and Trevor Trythall. Huff’s formidability at the plate combined with Trythall’s team-high 67 strikeouts at the pitching mound made for a killer combo. The two combined for the only four home runs Manti had all season.
Now with much of the production lost in a talented 2019 senior class, senior Conner Christiansen is expected to take the reins for the Templars in 2020. Christiansen was a specialist in baserunning in the previous season, leading the team with five stolen bases.
Other returning contributors include junior Tanner Justesen, who in limited time last season, had a batting average of .500 and three runs.
The Templars season began last week as they fell to Enterprise, Deseret News’ No. 3 team in 2A, 11-6. Junior Jax Parry led on offense with three RBIs.
Manti faced South Sevier at home last Tuesday. Their season continues with the Chuckwagon Classic this weekend. On Friday, the Templars face 2A teams Parowan and Millard, and Saturday will have matchups with Providence Hall and 2A Altamont.
Manti will have their first region matchup against Union next Tuesday.
The Hawks, a year ago, around this time, were a team brimming with potential, and they had every look as a dark horse in the 3A playoff picture.
And then the 2019 season happened.
North Sanpete baseball experienced a dismal 5-17 season, 2-11 in region play, capped by a 15-13 loss in the Region 15 play-in game, causing the Hawks to miss the playoffs yet again.
Suddenly, North Sanpete seems to be right back where they started.
The Hawks were led on the mound by Ashton Osborne last year. Osborne hit the Hawks only home run of 2019.
It’s unclear exactly who will lead a hopeful return to the postseason in 2020, but North Sanpete has been on the uptick for several seasons. It would not be surprising for last season to become more the exception than the rule.
North Sanpete was expected to begin their season last Monday against 5A Viewmont, but no score has been posted as of press time. Following a loss to 4A Ben Lomond, 8-3, the Hawks got their first win of the season with a 1-0 victory against Providence Hall.
North Sanpete played last Tuesday at Emery and will be in the Chuckwagon Classic this weekend. Their Friday slate feature 2A squads Millard and Beaver, and Saturday Features 2A squads Kanab and Parowan.
Following a Monday matchup with 5A Murray, the Hawks will have their first region competition against Delta on the road.
One can never expect anything less than greatness from Bulldog baseball.
Whether greatness is delivered varies from season to season.
The 2019 Gunnison baseball team were dominant in region play, going 9-0 despite a relatively meager 21-8 overall season. That earned them a top seed as the No. 1 2A Central team in last year’s playoffs.
A top seed frankly only got them so far as the Bulldogs were knocked out of the winners’ bracket in the quarterfinals by Enterprise, 10-3, frustrating a typically stalwart Gunnison scoring defense. The Bulldogs were then knocked out entirely by Kanab, 11-2.
A new chapter of Bulldog baseball begins this season with the departure of Jared Anderson, who coached the team for four seasons, compiling a 60-27 record and the 2017 2A state championship. The mantle now passes to head coach Max Sanders.
Sanders inherits a club ranked No. 5 in Deseret News 2A preseason rankings, complete with the return of All-State player Janzen Keisel and fellow junior Creed Mogle. The Bulldogs’ foundation is laid, and there is no ceiling in 2020.
Gunnison’s season kicked off with a premier matchup on the road next Tuesday against defending 2A champion Milford, led by defending 2A MVP Bryson Barnes. The game was played after press time.
The Bulldogs head to the Chuckwagon Classic for contests with Providence Hall and Richfield on Friday and a Saturday matchup with Enterprise.
Gunnison’s region slate begins on Tuesday with Millard, succeeded by a matchup on Wednesday with 3A Carbon.