The evening may have been a little cooler than normal, but it was more than warm enough for a Gatorade bath, and that’s exactly what Desert Hills head baseball coach Jerry Beck enjoyed.
Dylan File tossed a complete game, striking out eight, and the Thunder played stellar defense behind him en route to a 5-0 win over Pine View and the outright Region 9 title for the second year in a row.
“It feels so good. It just shows how much we’ve worked,” File said. “Every preseason we’re out at the gym busting our butts, running our guts out; it’s just a good feeling.”
Though File pitched well, the Panthers were able to get their bats on some balls, tallying four hits. A couple walks also aided the PV cause, but every time the Panthers appeared to have some momentum, the Desert Hills defense would quickly snuff it out.
Third baseman Clay Gardner had an especially impressive night, highlighted by a play in the top of the sixth inning when he corralled a shot down the left field line and fired the ball on a rope to first base, just beating Hunter Hansen for the out.
“(Our defense is) probably what I was most pleased about. That’s what I told the guys after the game,” Beck said. “That’s what we pride ourselves on in our program. We’ve kind of let that slip the last couple weeks with some errors, but tonight was a clean defensive game. We were heads up with some pick-offs, and Clay Gardner making some great plays over there at third.”
Offensively, neither team could generate much early. In the top of the second, Pine View got two runners on with no outs but was unable to capitalize from that point, ending the inning on a strikeout.
For the Thunder, it wasn’t until the bottom of the third inning that the offense got going. Evan Moss started things with a single up the middle, and then Brayson Hurdsman was walked, and File was hit by a pitch to load the bases. PV pitcher Harrison Goebel then walked Clay Wilcox to put a run on the board for Desert Hills.
Wyatt Bendall would strike out in the ensuing at-bat for the Thunder for the second out in the inning, bringing up Gardner with the bases loaded. The third baseman delivered, with a two-RBI single. Wilcox was tagged out after being caught between second and third to end the inning, but not before the Thunder opened up a 3-0 lead.
Desert Hills added to that lead in the bottom of the sixth inning when Bendall connected on a two-run shot that sailed over the fence in right-center. Leading 5-0, that’s all the Thunder would need.
“We’ve just got to celebrate tonight, celebrate this weekend, make it last as long as we can and then come out Tuesday knowing that we’ve got more to do,” File said. “Obviously, last year showed that winning region isn’t enough. It’s a tough region we play in, and anything can happen.”
Up next for the Thunder (8-2, 16-4) is a date with region rival and two-time defending state champion, Snow Canyon. The Warriors defeated the Thunder in last year’s 3A state title game.
“We still have a lot to play for. We realize that’s just goal number one, and we have some unfinished business from last year,” Beck said. “We just got this out of the way, and now we can put the focus on that and keep doing what we do.”
For the Panthers (5-5, 10-9), they still hold their playoff fate in their own hands. Pine View finishes up its regular season next week with a two-game series against Dixie, who is also fighting for a playoff spot.
“We have Dixie next week. We’ll compete and get ourselves there,” PV head coach Mike Gargano said. “We don’t want to put it on someone else, expecting them to win or lose.”
TIGERS 7, FALCONS 6: The Tigers scored five runs in the fifth inning to erase an early 3-0 deficit and picked up its first Region 9 win of the season. The victory stopped the Falcons (7-5) from clinching the No. 2 seed for the 3A state playoffs.
Canyon View answered the Hurricane surge with three runs in the bottom half of the inning, including an RBI double from Jackson Vasi, to reclaim the lead, but the Tigers answered with two in the sixth and held on.
Jay Williams singled to drive in one run to tie the score, then Kyle Williams singled to drive in what proved to be the winning run.
Troy Terry and Ryan Jensen each had two hits for the Falcons.
DIAMONDBACKS 19, RABBITS 9: Diamond Ranch Academy punched its ticket to the 2A playoffs with an emphatic win over Delta Friday in its final region game of the season.
The Diamondbacks sprayed the diamond with 18 hits. Charles Chuning (5 for 5) led the way with a double and an in-the-park home run. Zeb Pierson pitched a complete game.
REDMEN 3, FLYERS 2: Cedar overcame an early two-run deficit with a steady offensive output, scoring runs in the third, fifth and sixth innings to defeat Dixie and move into third place in Region 9 with a 6-4 record.
Brecken Lewis got the win, pitchng five innings, as the Redmen knocked in the final run on a mishandled ball with bases loaded in the top of the sixth. Kaden Lunt came in for the final six outs to earn the save. Lunt also recorded a double and a run. Morgan Garrett finished with two hits , and RBI and a run scored.