When it comes time to pick the top teams in 1A high school baseball for the state of Utah, it seems like we always come up with the "usual suspects" — Panguitch and Wayne.
After all, those two programs have combined to win each of the last six 1A state titles, with Wayne winning it three straight years from 2006-08 and again in 2010, and Panguitch picking up the other two coveted crowns in 2009 and last year.
In last year's state finals, the Bobcats from Panguitch pounded the Badgers from Wayne 10-1, snapping Wayne's 12-game winning streak and avenging the Bobcats' championship-game loss to the Badgers the previous year.
And now, with the 2012 season having passed its midway point, it's shaping up as a two-horse race again — although defending state champion Panguitch has certainly emerged as the frontrunner team to beat again this time around the basepaths.
The Bobcats boast an unbeaten record of 12-0 at this juncture. And they haven't just been winning — they've been bludgeoning many of their opponents by scores like 29-0, 21-0, 19-0 and 16-1, and they whipped Wayne 19-1 in a preseason tournament.
Panguitch has outscored its opponents by a whopping combined margin of 170-17 overall this season and is off to a solid 3-0 start in Region 20 play, including a 13-0 whitewashing of Wayne and a pair of 7-4 wins over Piute and Valley.
The Bobcats are again led by the strong arm of Dalan Bennett, who pitched them to the state title last year as a junior and has every intention of doing the same thing in his senior season. Bennett is the ace of the Panguitch staff with a 5-0 record, while Kaden Figgins is 4-0 on the mound. Chance Campbell, who also has a pair of pitching victories, has been strong at the plate with a couple of home runs and five doubles, with Bennett, Figgins, Tyce Barney, Josh Henrie and Sam Vasquez also swinging the bats well for the Bobcats.
Wayne, at 2-1 in Region 20 and 9-4 overall — three of its four losses this season have come against Panguitch by a combined 43-6 margin — will try to turn the tables on Panguitch when the two teams meet again on Sept. 12 on the Badgers' field.
Region 18 leader Tabiona is also off to a 3-0 start in league play and is 8-2 overall, with one of its two losses a 12-0 setback to Panguitch early in the season.
And with less than a month remaining in the regular season, the question remains: Can anyone stop the Bobcats from repeating as state champs? Right now, it looks like the title is theirs to win — or lose.