Second title in a row escapes Dino squad
|Carbon's Jamal Lewis (1) was involved in two rundowns during the course of the game against Snow Canyon. This one took place when a Warrior runner took off from a base too soon and Matt Jewkes (5) and Lewis were able to trap the player in a hot box. Lewis ran him down near second base.|
At the beginning of this season Carbon's baseball coach Lane Herrick made a prolific statement.
"We won't have the same team we did last year, but in the end, we will still be there."
His reference to last years state baseball team, in connection with this years squad which lost many of the key players to graduation came to be more true than almost anyone could have believed. The Dinos were there on the last day of 3A baseball for the season, but didn't quite make it to the final game, instead losing in the losers brackets finals on Saturday morning 16-4 at the hands of Bear River who the Dinos had relegated to that bracket in the first day of play.
In the course of a season in which the Carbon team was ranked first in the state from the beginning until only three weeks from the end, a reversal of roles came about. And in the end, once again, the whole thing ended with a key game against Snow Canyon High, which the Warriors won taking a 7-5 win over the kids from Carbon County in eight innings on Friday night.
The Warriors, who have taken second in the state 3A baseball tournament three out of the last five years, finally got what they and their fans wished for. They won it all on Saturday afternoon beating out Bear River 3-2 in a nine inning game.
Carbon, who came into the tournament with high hopes and rightly so, looked great at the first day of the tournament as they beat up the two top ranked teams in the state, Bear River and Park City. In the morning game they sent the Bears to the losers bracket with a 4-2 victory. Then, that evening they got revenge on Park City for an early season loss at home with a shutout, beating the Miners 4-0.
In the first game against the Bears on Thursday afternoon, it appeared that no matter what the odds against them the Dinos seemed ready to repeat their feat of 2001. Behind 1-0 at the beginning of the second inning, Eric Vigor, the unassuming right fielder for the team, took it on his shoulders to put the team ahead. He smashed a near 440 foot home run over the left field fence bringing in three runs and putting the Dinos ahead for good.
In the fourth inning Carbon put another run over the plate, when Jeff Anderson singled driving the run in. It was their last score in the game. The Bears were able to score another run in the bottom of that inning and then the contest turned into a defensive game with neither team able to score after that.
Bear River did threaten a few more times with the biggest threat coming in the last inning when they had two runners on base with no outs, but Troy Grundy, pitching at his usual high level, was able to get two players to pop up and in the end struck out the final Bear batter.
That set up the game with Park City on Thursday evening, after the Miners had beaten Pine View earlier at Springville High 4-3.
In Carbon's mind they knew they could beat Park City even though they had replaced the Dinos as the number one ranked team a few weeks ago. The early preseason loss to the Miners was just an incentive for better play.
The two teams began as they left off in that preseason contest; a pitchers dual that lasted much of the contest. This time however, the Park City pitcher was not Brandon Rogers; he had been all used up against Pine View earlier in the day. And that was the problem for the Miners; their pitching staff beyond Rogers was not as effective and the game eventually went south for them, but it took Carbon five innings to head it that way.
The hero again was Vigor, who had respectable numbers all season, but on this day had saved his best for championship play. He hit a homer driving in two runs and Carbon was on it's way to victory.
But the important thing about Vigors play just didn't have to do with offense in either Thursday games. His defense, picking off fly balls in a number of instances in both games was key to the victories that day.
Josh Greenwood also pitched an excellent game against Park City allowing seven hits, but controlling the order so they couldn't be strung together for scores.
That gave the team literally all of Friday to prepare mentally for the game against Snow Canyon.It also gave the Warriors time to mull over last years championship game which they lost when their pitcher balked and the umpire let a Carbon runner come in for a score. It was a burr under the saddle they couldn't let sit.
This time Carbon's pitcher was Blake Wilde, and he did very well, holding the Warriors potent offense down almost the whole game.
But at first Carbon's offense wasn't up to par. As Snow Canyon scored two runs in the first three innings, Carbon couldn't get it going. They made a lot of hits, but failed to score.
Finally in the fourth inning Carbon was able to place three runs across the plate after a double by Greenwood, but then the Warriors came right back in the top of the fifth inning and were able to get up by one.
It wasn't over, by no means, however. Carbon struck back in the bottom half of the inning by stringing together some singles and steals. Jamal Lewis came in for a spectacular slide and evened the score up before the outs changed the inning and it was tied 4-4.
The Dinos had many chances after that to go ahead, and at one point had two runners on base, with no outs, but just couldn't bring the boys in.
One play in the middle of this drought made it even worse, and to Carbon fans watching the game infuriated them more than the balk call had made Snow Canyon fans mad a year ago in St. George.
Vigor was at bat and was struck out. When the third strike call was made he jumped up in frustration. At the exact same time Grundy, who had made it to first on a single, took off trying to steal second. The umpire called Vigor for blocking the catcher from throwing the ball to second, and ruled another out, which made it two for Carbon instead of just one. Another runner at third did not move. Without that call, Carbon could have very well scored with only one out on the board, but it was not to be.
Carbon fans and coaches protested loudly. In fact the umpire threatened to throw out part of the Carbon coaching staff for protesting for what he thought was too long and too loud.
Snow Canyon also had it's chances to come back but didn't. The seventh inning saw a pitching change for Carbon as Matt Jewkes, winner of last years championship game came in. But the magic didn't happen and the game went into extra innings.
|A Bear River runner begins to head for second as Carbon's first baseman Jeff Anderson (12) watches Troy Grundy throw a pitch in Thursdays game against the Tremonton crew. The Dinos won the game 4-2, but ended up facing the Bears again on Saturday where they lost 16-4 in five innings. |
In the top of the eighth, Jewkes hit Snow Canyon's lead off batter and he walked to first. Then that runner stole second and went to third on a bunt.
The next Warrior batter hit a grounder right to third baseman Jamal Lewis who, along with Zac Cloward, Carbon's catcher was able to put the third base runner in a hot box which Lewis finally ended by tagging him. But the time taken in this play allowed the batter who had hit the grounder to advance to second base.
The Warriors had two out and Carbon was confident they could keep the game under control, but the next batter hit a single and the kids from Santa Clara scored. Then, they were able to drive in that batter with a triple and an error helped Snow Canyon to score another run.
Carbon now had to overcome a three run lead. They were able to bring in one run on a Grundy single, but a grounder and a resulting double play ended the game. Carbon moved into the losers bracket, facing playing three games in one day (Saturday) to keep the 3A crown in Carbon County.
The next morning they ended up facing Bear River once again; the Tremonton team had come full circle and won their way back to a chance for the championship round by beating everyone in the losers bracket.
As the Dinos hit the field on Saturday morning, the players acted as if the steam that had driven the defending state champions to a winning season, had fizzled out. The excitement was missing after the difficult loss the night before.
The game began with hardships for the Dinos as starting pitcher for this game, Jamal Lewis struggled to make the big pitches. After walking several players in the first inning, Lewis and the Dinos found themselves down 3-0 as the second inning began.
With the beginning of the second inning came several big changes, with the most notable coming from a Dino rally which lead to two runs being scored.
The bottom of the second inning also found changes taking place. Lewis was moved to third base, and Herrick brought in Jewkes as the new pitcher.
Unfortunately the second inning turned out much the same as the first. After walking several hitters, Jewkes was taken off the mound and Grundy was brought in.
Grundy stepped up to the challenge and started out pitching strong.
Determined not to give up, the Dinos stepped up to bat and found themselves forcing Bear River to worry about their chances of pulling out a victory against the Dinos. Carbon completed two runs in the top of the third to narrow the Bears lead to 6-4.
The Dinos successfully completed a quick inning by forcing the Bears back to the outfield without scoring a run in the third. By the fourth inning however, the loss the Dinos suffered the previous night began to take its toll on the team.
Batting woes plagued Carbon who were quickly forced to the outfield where a number of errors were committed during the bottom of the fourth inning.
But the most notable struggle for the Dinos was at the pitching position. In the fourth inning alone, Carbon put in four different pitchers including Grundy, Jewkes, Cloward, and Wilde. Despite the changes, the Dinos committed error after error, leading to a 10 run inning for the Bears.
With Bear River ahead of the Dinos 16-4, the Dinos stepped up to bat in the top of the fifth inning in desperate needs of a strong performance just to be able to continue play. The 10 run rule was looming over them and they had to get at least three runs to keep the game going.
This didn't happen however. Three quick outs and the defending state champs went home.
This team has a lot to be proud of, however. They lost many key members from last year, yet still came very close to making a repeat a reality.
A third place finish at state is nothing to sneeze at.