|Austin Preston was the winning picture in East Carbon's victory over Westridge Academy on Monday evening in a state play-in game. The Vikings now move onto the semi-finals at Utah Valley State College.|
If one asks people along the Wasatch Front where East Carbon High School is very few can answer that question.
If they are asked the same question about Westridge Academy, whom the Vikings played and defeated in a play-in game on Monday afternoon (12-2) in Sunnyside even fewer will answer that they know where it is.
That doesn't happen often, especially since Westridge is located right in the middle of the west side of the Salt Lake Valley. Few areas of the state are more neglected or obscure to the big population centers than the little bergs in Eastern Utah, but by Saturday night many more people in the capital city area might know where the kids that play baseball there reside.
The fact is that 1A fall baseball seems to be a neglected sport in this state; almost every other high school sport that is played this time of year gets bigger billing; in fact in the major papers along the Wasatch Front regular season games, between losing teams, in tennis and soccer get better coverage than the championship game of the small schools baseball league.
"I can't figure that out," says Viking coach Todd McFarland. "This is the time of year when baseball is actually the hottest in every other venue. The major leagues are playing for their pennants and soon the World Series will be starting."
Yet that is the way it is. But that doesn't lessen the spirit, or the accomplishment of what the kids at East Carbon have done this year. With the victory over the Eagles the team travels to the semi-finals for the second time in two years, and find themselves in an enviable position. They have beaten every other team that is in the tournament sometime this season.
The other three teams in the semis are Waterford (Salt Lake) Wayne (Loa) and Dugway, a well known foe of the Vikings in Region 18. East Carbon beat Waterford (who defeated Piute 12-11 in their play-in game) on Aug. 14 in the Westridge Tournament 9-6. They also defeated Wayne (their first opponent at the tournament) on Aug. 19, 7-6. The Vikes split their "double header" schedule with Dugway during Region 18 play winning the first game 3-1 and then losing the second 11-2 on Aug. 30. Those games were played at the west desert towns home field.
As for Monday's game, it was some of the usual cast of characters that sent Westridge packing and hoping for better things next year in the baseball arena.
Austin Preston was not only the winning pitcher, but went 5 for 5 at bat. Preston was relieved by Andy Farliano and Tony McFarland on the mound, both doing a bang up job to bring the win home.
In other batting highlights, Bryant Bridge and Farliano both had doubles, while the whole team put out 12 hits with only one error in the game.
Defensively the Vikings looked better than they have lately, which had to be a big relief to the coaches who have been worried about the teams gloves.
But that didn't mean without some fast and smart work some more errors could have been added to the box scores. Jesse Stewart, playing first base saved three Westridge runs by doing some fancy catching at his position. An overthrown ball and a couple of bounces could have well put the Eagles back in the game, but for his ability to catch up with the balls. In one case the ball was thrown to him and hit well in front of the base bouncing almost away from him. He nabbed with his bare hard rather than the glove and took out the Westridge runner.
But the thrill of the big win, and a great chance this year at winning the state 1A championship was tempered and a seasons ending injury for D.J. Huitt, one of the main stays on this years squad. Huitt, who did not start the game due to a disciplinary measure for missing a practice, came up to bat later in the game and strained his hip in an attempt to hit a pitch.
"He won't be able to play anymore this year," said McFarland.
It's been a long time since East Carbon won a state championship in any sport. The loss of Huitt hurts the team, but it is still a strong and viable squad.
In fact for the first time anyone can remember, the upstate media actually seems to favor East Carbon to win the title. As of Wednesday they are thinking either East Carbon or Dugway, which most sources say will be the two teams playing Saturday for the championship.
Friday's semi-final game will be played at the Utah Valley State College baseball field just off I-15 on the University Parkway exit. Game time will be 11 a.m.