photo courtesy of Gary Bennett
Dalan Bennett has been the pitching ace of his age group in Panguitch since he was 9 years old.
It's only fitting then that in Bennett's senior year swan song, he led the Bobcats' baseball team to one of their best seasons ever.
Bennett went a sparkling 12-0 on the mound and enjoyed a productive season at the plate, too, in guiding the Bobcats to a scintillating 23-0 record and a second consecutive 1A state championship.
"The record speaks for itself, but he'd be the first to say it came with a good defense behind him," said Panguitch coach Clint Barney. "We were an experienced team and we had a lot of good kids coming back from last year's championship."
That experience and Bennett's poise on the mound made for an unbeatable combination as the Bobcats won 16 of 23 games by the 10-run rule — including all three in the state tournament.
Just like he did a year ago, Bennett got the job done by throwing strikes and making hitters put the ball in play. The Bobcats' defense took care of the rest.
"He was able to locate it and hit his spots, hit his corners and stay ahead in the count," said Barney.
The defense was always ready behind him.
"The mind set and confidence from Dalan's teammates when he was on the mound was much different. Everyone just felt we couldn't be beat with Dalan on the mound," said Barney. "We just played more loose. In the games Dalan didn't start, there just seemed to be more added pressure. We didn't play the way we played when he was on the mound."
Dalan's calming effect on the entire team was much needed in the playoffs.
After finishing the regular season with a 20-0 record, Barney said the kids started to feel the pressure of the perfect season mount going into the playoffs. They knew all about the 2004 Panguitch team that took a 22-0 record into the championship game, only to lose to Waterford 10-7.
"As the pressure started to mount, the kids started to feel it and they struggled hitting, and we needed that strong pitching," said Barney.
Even Bennett felt the pressure a bit in the first inning of the state championship game against Piute, surrendering three runs on four hits. He settled down the rest of the way, though, to cap Panguitch's perfect season and his own.
The back-to-back 1A MVP finished with a 21-1 record over the past two seasons combined. He wasn't just a pitcher, though, even though Barney knows that's what his ace will be remembered for.
Bennett finished with season a .423 batting average and flourished as the leadoff hitter the final eight games of the season.
Early in the season, Panguitch couldn't find a consistent leadoff guy. If Barney put a speed guy at the top of the order, they couldn't get on. If he put a hot bat leadoff, the hitter suddenly went into a slump. Bennett provided that consistency at the plate down the stretch.
1A All-State Baseball First Team:
Kaden Blood, Piute, Soph.
5-3 record, .390 BA
Joe Giacchetti, West Ridge, Jr.
6-2 record, .750 BA, 4 HRs
Preston Hanks, Wayne, Sr.
Strong, consistent pitcher
Stetson Hogan, Tabiona, Sr.
.556 BA, 25 RBI, 10-0 record
Taylor Hurst, Tintic, Jr.
4-1 record, 4 doubles
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