Michael Brandy, Deseret News archives
SALT LAKE CITY — The 2011 high school baseball season is in full swing, and intriguing storylines are already unfolding.
In Class 5A, a traditional powerhouse is reemerging as a state-title contender. Everyone is gunning for Spanish Fork in 4A, from St. George to Hyrum. Juan Diego is just as big a target in 3A with teams from locations all over the state such as Cedar City, Price and Garland wanting to unseat them. Class 2A is wide open and picking a state-title favorite is impossible.
The next couple of months will feature exciting games, league and state championship races, and of course, unpredictable weather. Here is a look at each classification before league play begins to heat up, while the spring weather hopefully does the same:
CLASS 5A: It was supposed to mark the end of Taylorsville's proud baseball dynasty when the Warriors stunningly went 7-14 and missed the state tournament last season.
But the Warriors have way too much pride for that. They look to be back among the state's powerhouses this season. They return seven starters from last year's team, and their entire roster enjoyed being a part of an American Legion state championship last summer.
Taylorsville has no shortage of motivation after missing the tournament last year.
"It was disappointing," Taylorsville first baseman Marc Reynolds said. "We all had high hopes. I think it kind of fueled us for this year. We don't want that to happen again. Being the first team in 16 years not to make playoffs for Taylorsville — that's like an insult to me and I'm sure it is to everyone else. We don't want that to happen again."
Second-year coach Jake Brown has a strong pitching staff to work with and a solid batting lineup. Reynolds anchors the offense, and he's complemented nicely by players such as Dallas Carroll, Dalton Carroll, Hayden Heugly and Bryson Heaton.
"We're happy with our team," Brown said. "We know we're an underdog, but we like our team and we'd like to go find out (where we stand) against anybody."
There is no shortage of state-title contenders in 5A, and no one team stands ahead of the pack as eventual champion Lone Peak did during the 2010 season. The Knights, ranked No. 1, have a real shot at repeating thanks to a deep pitching staff. They'll first have to get through a rough Region 4 that features unbeaten teams Jordan, American Fork and Brighton.
Bingham opened the season ranked No. 1, but lost the top spot after losing to Alta. The Miners, led by ace pitcher Mason Marshall, will still be a team to be dealt with, and are considered by many to be a slight favorite to win the 5A state title.
Riverton has built a quality program, and will battle Bingham and Taylorsville for the Region 3 title. Viewmont and Davis will slug it out for the Region 1 championship, and Cottonwood figures to be the favorite in Region 2.
CLASS 4A: Everyone knows reigning champion Spanish Fork is the team to beat in 4A. But one team the Dons — and the rest of 4A — have to keep an eye on is Snow Canyon.
The Warriors put a scare into Spanish Fork in the state tournament last season, and returns a quality pitching staff and a good batting lineup. Snow Canyon has one of the top players in the state in sophomore Riley Gates, who struck out 11 Dons in the tourney last year. Gates is already hitting 89 miles per hour on radar guns, and will only get better as the year goes on.
"It blows me away," said Snow Canyon coach Reed Secrist. "God gives some people an arm."
The Warriors have good talent around Gates, including his older brother Reggie. Eight different hurlers have already recorded a win for Snow Canyon this season, and Gates serves as the team's closer. The Warriors' offense is much improved. They scored 148 runs in 26 games last season. They've already scored 103 runs in 10 games this season.